Lupe Ontiveros, a veteran Mexican-American actress who played the real-life murderer of Tejano pop star Selena in the 1997 movie, died Thursday in Los Angeles after suffering from liver cancer. She was 69.
During a career that spanned nearly four decades, Ontiveros also appeared as America Ferrera’s mother in Real Women Have Curves (2002), as Greg Kinnear’s emotional maid in As Good as It Gets (1997) and as a suspicious mother-in-law on ABC’s Desperate Housewives, a role for which she was nominated for an Emmy for guest actress in a comedy series.
Ontiveros earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for playing a tough theater director in Chuck & Buck (2000) and voiced the grandmother in the animated PBS series Maya & Miguel.
The native of El Paso, Texas, most recently served as a regular on the CBS comedy Rob, starring Rob Schneider as a man who marries into a big Mexican-American family.
TMZ on Friday was first to report her death.
Ontiveros built her career on playing immigrant characters. She told NPR in 2009 that she had played a maid more than 150 times.
“You’ve got maids and you’ve got maids,” she said. “You got maids that have longevity beyond what you ever conceived of in your wildest dreams. I'll give you an example — The Goonies. Those that got hooked — I have a whole following of 30-year-olds who got hooked. Oh my gosh, I'm a heroine to them.”
In Selena, Ontiveros played Yolanda Saldivar, the fan club president who in 1995 murdered the singer, played in the film by Jennifer Lopez.
Ontiveros also had regular TV roles on The White Shadow, Dudley, Greetings From Tucson and Los Americans. She appeared in the late 1970s in Zoot Suit, the first Mexican-American production on Broadway.
A former social worker and a longtime advocate for women’s and educational issues, Ontiveros was to be among those honored Aug. 11 at the sixth annual Los Angeles Theatre Center Gala.
“She worked tirelessly to perfect her craft and open doors for countless Latinos along the way,” said Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “Hollywood never gave her the lead role, but in our hearts she will be remembered as our leading lady. She will be deeply missed by all of us.”
Ontiveros was awarded NHMC’s Lifetime Achievement Impact Award in 2002.
TMZ said she is survived by her husband and three children.