And finally tonight, our "person of the week" is about to receive another big award, even though she's already won an oscar, a grammy, a tony and an emmy. It's hard to believe there was a time when a... See More
And finally tonight, our "person of the week" is about to receive another big award, even though she's already won an oscar, a grammy, a tony and an emmy. It's hard to believe there was a time when a hispanic woman in hollywood was a pioneer. But rita moreno blazed a trail so bright, jennifer lopez said she grew up wanting to be like the girl in "west side story" who danced her way to her dreams. Here's abc's dan harris. Reporter: If you want to see something truly age-defying, look at rita moreno in 1961 in "west side story." And look at her this morning in her home this berkeley, california, at age 81. She's still got the moves. ♪ I wake up humming. This is the prime of my life at 81. ♪ I like to be in america ♪ yes. That was me. That sure was me. Reporter: In an era where there are plenty of hispanic heartthrobs, it's hard to imagine the world into which this young star was born. I was born rosa dolores alverio in humacao, puerto rico. Reporter: In her memoir, she tells the story of her mom, who gave birth at age 17 and brought her daughter to new york at age 5. Kids were calling me garlic mouth -- you know, it's right out of "west side story" in a way. Reporter: She started dancing in small clubs in new york and then gambled on hollywood. I wanted to be elizabeth taylor. You know, I can put on that waist cincher like liz taylor and do my eyebrows and I did. I didn't like being hispanic. Reporter: The only roles she could get were minorities, including in "the kind and i." I already speak english. I had to invent for myself an accent, I called it the universal ethnic accent. The truth is, they all sounded the same. Reporter: Then in 1961 her whole world changed. I really became proud of being a hispanic when "west side story" happened. I can't believe it! When I got that oscar, I said to myself, this is it. I'm not going to do those demeaning roles anymore. Reporter: In spanish, there is a phrase for true grit. I think the world in spanish that best describes me is "perseverancia y esperanza," hope and perseverance. And so we choose rita moreno, whose next award, by the way, is the songbook hall of fame. And we thank you for watching.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.