Elizabeth Peña dies at 55 years old
Elizabeth Peña is no longer with us. Oh my heart, the wonderfully talented actress Elizabeth Peña has died. She died on October 14 at Cedars-Siani in Los Angeles. She was only 55 years old. No reason has been given for her death only that she passed after a brief illness. I truly hope she did not suffer.
This is a huge loss. My deepest condolences to her husband Hans and to her children Fiona and Kaelan. Peña's death is a loss for all of us who have admired and been inspired by her work. Her acting career which spanned over 40 years was still going strong. She recently finished filming the first season of the action series Matador on the El Rey Network. Her life story and career trajectory is one that should make all Latinos proud.
Read more ¿Qué más?: José Luis Rodriguez "El Puma" is suffering from incurable disease
She was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey to Cuban immigrant parents. Soon after her birth, the family moved to Cuba where Peña stayed until she was 9 years old. She returned to the U.S. and lived in New York where she graduated from the High School of the Performing Arts in Manhattan. She started her professional in the film The Super in 1978. Soon thereafter, her acting led her to relocate to the West Coast where she landed wonderful role after wonderful role.
I can honestly say, I've never not loved a performance by Elizabeth Peña. I adore her work. She's even been in some films that I didn't particularly like, but I LOVED her in them. Her resumé includes La Bamba, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Batteries not included, Blue Steel, Rush Hour and Jacob's Ladder.
Now, you know that being a Latina actress fighting for roles in Hollywood is NOT easy, but Peña was a luchadora kicking butt time and time again. I love the story of how she landed Jacob's Ladder opposite Tim Robbins. She said in a 2001 interview,
I worked very hard to get, Jacob's Ladder. At first they wanted Julia Roberts, Andie MacDowell or Michelle Pfeiffer. At some point they wanted Susan Sarandon, and Madonna wanted the part. They auditioned all of them. I begged to be auditioned. I begged and begged and when I auditioned, the chemistry was right and Adrian and I were just taken with each other. I auditioned for six months, twice a week. The reason I kept going back was because Adrian was literally fighting for me to get the role.
That's right, she got the role over all those other big name actresses because of her ganas, determination and talent.
Elizabeth Peña, your beautiful face and smile will be missed. Thank you so much for all your wonderful work and for always representing Latinos with pride and dignity.
Imagen vía Getty Images.