Actress Lupe Ontiveros, "Selena", Passes Away

By: CNN (posted by Justin Surrency) Email
By: CNN (posted by Justin Surrency) Email

CNN -Actress Lupe Ontiveros, who co-starred in the hit films "Selena" and "As Good As It Gets," has died, CNN confirmed on Friday. She was 69.

Her publicists told CNN the cause of death was liver cancer.

Ontiveros passed on Thursday night following calls from actors all over Hollywood as well as political figures, including calls from Edward James Olmos and Hilda Solis, said Roy Cosme of Arcos Communications.

The Mexican-American actress built her career playing domestic workers, and in a 2009 interview with NPR said she had appeared as a maid more than 150 times in roles on shows like "Who's the Boss." Her near constant gigs made her one of the most recognizable Latina actresses in Hollywood.

One such recognizable role came later in life when she played Yolanda Saldivar, the woman convicted of killing Tejano superstar Selena in the blockbuster movie of the singer's life.

TMZ reports that Ontiveros' "Selena" co-star Jacob Vargas was at her bedside when she passed. He told CNN in a statement that Ontiveros was diagnosed with liver cancer in January of this year, but kept it quiet from friends and family.

At time of her passing, Vargas said, "she was surrounded by many friends and family." He called the 69-year-old star "an amazing person. A force of nature. Always smiling and ready to pull you out on the dance floor. She will be dearly missed.”

Jennifer Lopez, who starred in 1997's "Selena" as the titular superstar, said in a statement, "I am tremendously saddened by the news of Lupe's passing! I've enjoyed her work throughout the years. She was a great actress and working with her in 'Selena' was an unforgettable experience. She will truly be missed."

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Actress Eva Longoria shared similar condolences, telling CNN in a statement that she's "deeply saddened at the news of my dear friend Lupe Ontiveros' passing. She was more than a colleague to me, she was my family. My heart is with your family Lupe.”

Actor Luis Guzman tweeted Friday, "R.I.P. Lupe Ontiveros thank you for all your work and being a Pioneer."

Cosme, who serves on the board of the Latino Commission on AIDS, described Ontiveros as a community activist as much as a movie star, and a major voice in the Latino community's ongoing fight against HIV/AIDS. In the past, Ontiveros was a co-host of the Latino Commission on AIDS' fundraiser.

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