Rosie Perez says an agent advised her to drastically change her appearance to make her look whiter.
“He said, ‘I can get you more work,’ if I dye my hair blonde and get a nose job done. The 58-year-old Latin actress told Variety in a recent interview because you’re not black. “I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘Oh my God,’ I was like, ‘thank you, I got fired’.”
Soon, the truth of his decision came to light.
“I had no one, I had no money,” he shared.
But the “Do the Right Thing” actress found an ally in “Criminal Justice” co-star Jennifer Gray and, hearing the agent’s advice, immediately called her own agent.
“Jennifer and I instantly clicked,” the old Perez said. “I haven’t seen that woman in a long time, but I think she’s extraordinary. She says, ‘I can’t believe how racist this industry is.’ She picks up the phone and she calls CAA’s Jane Berliner and says, ‘You have to represent this actress.'”
Berliner signed Perez, helping him secure two career-changing roles.
Her first was the role of Woody Harrelson’s girlfriend in “White Men Can’t Jump,” which was originally written for a white woman.
“It was a magical summer,” Perez said, playing opposite Harrelson and Wesley Snipes. “And when you scroll through your TV to see what you want to watch, when March Madness comes out and then ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ comes on, you can’t help but watch.”
This opportunity led to Peter Weir’s “Fearless,” where the studio again asked a white woman to play.
Despite pressure from the studio, Weir and Jeff Bridges, who played Max Klein in the 1993 drama, remained in place.
Perez’s role as the grieving mother Carla Rodrigo earned her an Oscar nomination.
Despite being an academy member, the actress revealed she hasn’t been invited back since 1994, when she was nominated in 2021.
“Even sitting in the audience, not presenting, nothing – and I’m a member,” he told Variety. “I love the Academy Awards. I cheer my peers, but it hurts. It’s like your home team not asking you to get off the bat and go back to the stadium after a home run.”
However, he was invited to the Oscar the following year to present an award with Snipes and Harrelson.
Perez continued to act in films such as “Pineapple Express” despite the drama in the early part of his career.
He was also selected as the host of “The View”, but left the talk show after just one season for reasons he refuses to explain in detail.
“I’m not supposed to talk about it,” he told Variety. “Let’s just say that what I thought I was there was supposed to be some kind of thing that excited me, and then when I got there it wasn’t.”
While sitting on the panel, an anonymous executive told Variety that Perez could not read the teleprompter, prompting Latino leaders to demand an apology.
Additionally, ABC executive Barbara Fedida, who oversaw the show during Perez’s tenure, was fired in 2020 for making racially insensitive comments about “Good Moning America” host Robin Roberts, a black woman.
Perez declined to comment and simply said, “I’m not going there.”
The “The Flight Attendant” star, who can now be seen on “Your Honor,” will be honored at Variety’s Power of Women event next month, alongside Natasha Lyonne, Kelly Ripa, Michaela Jae Rodriguez and writer Judy Blume.