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Rosie Perez recalls the racism she’s faced in her career: ‘Life is tough, but I’m tougher’




Rosie Perez has weathered decades in show Business, including dealing with racism and typecasting, by being resilient and forging ahead.

“Life is tough, but I’m tougher,” the actress, who is of Puerto Rican descent, told Page Six exclusively Monday at the 2024 Chaplin Award Gala, which honored Jeff Bridges.

The two starred together in the 1993 movie “Fearless,” which garnered Perez an Oscar nomination.

Jeff Bridges and Rosie Perez in "Fearless."
Perez called her role in “Fearless” a “game changer.” ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection
Rosie Perez.
The actress said producers initially did not want her for the role. Getty Images

The “White Men Can’t Jump” star said her role as Carla Rodrigo was a “Game changer” for her career.

“People just saw me one way,” she explained to us. “I was getting offered the same kind of character over and over again, and I kept saying no. There was a rep at the time who would say, ‘Oh, this opportunity is going to pass by,’ and I would say, ‘Well, let it pass me by. I want something deeper.'”

Perez, 59, shared that “Fearless” producers initially told her they were not interested in her for the part, but that did not put her off.

Rosie Perez.
Perez said she struggled to be cast in meaningful roles even after “Fearless.” Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Rosie Perez.
She believes racism played a factor in the decisions. Getty Images

“I said, ‘That’s OK. I’ll fight for it,'” she remembered, adding that she had at least “three or four auditions” before she finally got the job.

Unfortunately, even after rave reviews and an Oscar nomination, the “Do the Right Thing” star still struggled to land meaningful roles.

“There was one idiotic reporter who kept repeating over and over again, ‘Oh, you’re just a fluke,’ so people went back to offering me roles that I didn’t want,” she recalled.

Rosie Perez in "Do the Right Thing."
Perez became a star after appearing in “Do the Right Thing.” ©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection
Rosie Perez.
She spoke to Page Six at a gala honoring Jeff Bridges. Getty Images

When Page Six asked Perez whether she felt there was an “undercurrent” of racism involved, she laughed and responded, “Undercurrent? It was the wild rapids! There was no undercurrent.”

Other celebs at the splashy event included Sarah Paulson, Sharon Stone and Kieran Culkin.

Bridges, 74, walked the carpet alongside his wife, Susan Bridges, and told Page Six that his health is “great” following a near-death experience in 2021 when he battled cancer and COVID-19 simultaneously.