Rosie Perez

On this date in 1964, entertainer and activist Rosa María “Rosie” Perez was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Lydia Perez and Ismael Serrano. Her parents weren’t married to each other and a week after giving birth, her schizophrenic mother left her at the home of Rosie’s aunt and vanished, leaving her there for the next three years.

In her 2014 memoir Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, and Still Came Out Smiling (With Great Hair), Perez detailed how her mother returned one day and soon turned her over to a Catholic orphanage, where she was physically and emotionally abused by nuns and became “the ‘property’ of the Catholic Church.” She was also sexually abused by her brother on a visit to her mother’s.

At age 19 she was hired as a dancer on the music and dance TV show “Soul Train” while she was attending college in Los Angeles. In 1988, director Spike Lee hired her for her first major acting role in “Do the Right Thing.” She starred in the hit comedy “White Men Can’t Jump” (1992) co-starring Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson

Perez was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in the 1993 film “Fearless” and attended the ceremony with her father. She had roles in “Perdita Durango” (1997), “The 24 Hour Woman” (1999), “Riding in Cars With Boys” (2001), “Pineapple Express” (2008) and most recently as of this writing, in the 2020 superhero film “Birds of Prey.”

Perez has choreographed music videos by Janet Jackson, Bobby Brown, Diana Ross, LL Cool J and worked as choreographer on the TV series “In Living Color” (1990–94). She made her Broadway debut in 2003 in Terrence McNally’s “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.” In 2015 she returned to Broadway to star in “Fish in the Dark,” written by Larry David. She played Lucille in “Clifford the Big Red Dog” (2021), an adaptation of the children’s book series by Norman Bridwell.

She co-hosted the ABC-TV talk show “The View” in 2014-15 but left after one season. Perez is an activist for Puerto Rican rights. She married filmmaker and playwright Seth Zvi Rosenfeld in 1991. They divorced in 2001. She married artist Eric Haze in 2013. She has no children.

PHOTO: Perez at the premiere of her film “Won’t Back Down” in 2012; Joella Marano photo under CC 2.0.

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