Grand Marshals of the 2020 Tournament of Roses Parade Laurie Hernandez, Rita Moreno, Gina Torres in shower of confetti. ©LB Monteros
by Laura Berthold Monteros
Hints. There are always hints. The hints started a little early with three Instagram posts, which can be seen on Facebook at All Things Rose Parade. At the announcement on Tuesday of the Grand Marshal of the 2020 Rose Parade, the hints were cinnamon apple empanadas (as American as apple pie), Mexican hot chocolate, and a band playing Latin American favorites—rhumbas, flamenco, Brazilian and Caribbean dances—and a red cloth covering the table that hold the bouquets. More than one, then?
More than one. The Grand Marshals of the 131st Tournament of Roses Parade, which will be held on Jan. 1, 2020, are gymnast and author Laurie Hernandez, actress, producer, and vocalist Gina Torres, and a woman who has more credits to her name than the Wrigley Rose Garden has flowers, Rita Moreno. She is one of only 15 EGOT winners (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) and has been honored with two presidential medals. At ages 19, 50, and 87, the women span three generations of talented Latinas. All three had stories of the Rose Parade and “The Power of Hope,” this year’s theme.
Be sure to check out the gallery below for photos of the big event!
Tournament of Roses President Laura Farber opened the event with “It’s a beautiful day in Pasadena!” She shared why she chose “The Power of Hope” as the theme. Born in Argentina to students who left everything to escape oppression, she said that the United States offered hope to her parents. He husband Tomas had a similar situation, with his family leaving the Dominican Republic to escape the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo.
Hope makes anything is possible, she said. “El poder de esperanza. Hope means so much.” It brings joy, aspiration, inspiration. “Hope never quits.”
With that, Farber launched into her introduction of the Grand Marshal. The GM is a Latina, Farber related, who was born in New Jersey in 2000 and is an Olympic gymnast, author, and contestant on Dancing with the Stars, among other accomplishments. “Laurie Hernandez!” she announced.
Hernandez came through the thick silver curtain, and was presented with a bouquet of red roses. At the lectern she related that she has watched the “Rose Bowl Parade” since she was a kid. Her charm and enthusiasm made up for that slip of the tongue. “Keep spreading that message,” she said. “The Power of Hope.”
“It’s a dream come true!” she told reporters after the announcement. She said that she wanted to be part of the Olympics when she watched it on television, and she felt that same desire when she watched the Rose Parade. She said she was surprised when she found out she would actually have that opportunity. She spoke of the “chemistry” the three strong Latinas developed when they met prior to the announcement.
The usual program order is that after the speech by the GM, there are photo and interview ops. But this time, Hernandez went to the side of the stage and Farber again stood at the mic to announce the second Grand Marshal—a mezzo-soprano who sang opera and jazz, acted in The Matrix and television series such as Firefly and Suits, and is the first Afro-Latina to have the lead in her own series. Pearson. Gina Torres stepped through the curtain.
Her mother loved parades, she said, so she saw a lot of them. “Parades are about teamwork…So I’m honored to be a part of this team.”
Afterwards, she told a radio journalist that the invitation had come through her manager. He forwarded the email and wrote, “Scroll all the way down. I think you want to see this,” she said. “It took me 25 seconds to say yes!” Asked what her favorite operatic role is, she said that she hadn’t been a lead, but that she learned so much about Mozart, Handel, and other composers. Opera singers are really athletes, she said.
Farber was not done. The third Grand Marshal is from Puerto Rico, a Broadway star, and best-known for singing “America” in West Side Story. “She is a hero of Puerto Rico and an American legend,” Farber said. Who else could it be? Rita Moreno!
Moreno came through the curtain and down the steps dancing. She took center stage, and told her story. Her mother left Puerto Rico to create a better life. She worked in a New York sweatshop until she could go back to Puerto Rico and fetch her 5-year-old daughter. Even at that age, Moreno said her uncle was impressed with her dancing.
“All I ever wanted in life was to be a movie star,” she said. “I am so grateful to the Rose Parade, but especially to Laura…and representing with two astounding women.”
She called for music—the sound techs put on “We Are the Champions.” Moreno called out, “We don’t have any Latino music?” At that, they put on Latin dance music, and the three Grand Marshals joined in a dance. It has to be a first in Tournament of Roses history. Then the confetti cannons blasted, “America” began playing, and the three Latinas radiated joy.
Later, when West Side Story was mentioned, Moreno enthused about the new adaptation Steven Spielberg is making. Moreno will both executive produce the film and star as Valentina, a reimagining of store owner Doc. “It’s full circle,” she said.
Asked about how she feels about being a role model, she responded, “It’s great. It’s not something I started out to do. I became a role model by accident.” And the message? “I’m still working at 87. That’s great!”
Followers of All Things Rose Parade had a good time guessing who the Grand Marshal would be. Only one thought it might be Gina Torres, and he, along with several others, pinned Rita Moreno. Be sure to “like” that page to stay up to date on Tournament of Roses happenings, and subscribe to The Rose Examiner to get email notifications as articles are posted. No spam will be sent to you.
Here are the official Tournament of Roses bios
Rita Moreno has received four of the most prestigious awards in show business; an Academy Award®, a Tony Award®, two Emmy® Awards, and a GRAMMY® award. Her credits span more than six decades, beginning on Broadway at age 13. A recipient of the Kennedy Center Honor for her lifetime contributions to American culture, Moreno was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush and the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama. In addition to her film, stage, television and concert accomplishments, Moreno gives her voice to important causes, including racial equality, hunger, early childhood education, as well as health issues like HIV, breast cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Moreno was among many celebrities to take part in the historic March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963 and has since been involved with many civic, cultural and charitable organizations, including the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
Well-known for her roles on Suits, Alias, Firefly and Westworld, Gina Torres was born in Manhattan to a close-knit Cuban family and raised in the Bronx. Gina’s character, Jessica Pearson, on USA Network’s hit original series Suits garnered award-winning success which lead to the spinoff series, Pearson. Currently she is staring in the lead role and executive producing Pearson, which sees her Suits character take on the world of Chicago politics. The role of Jessica has been a life changing one, earning Gina the National Hispanic Media Coalition’s Award for Outstanding Performance in a Television Series and the Visionary Award from the LA Femme Film Festival. Before entering the world of acting, she studied opera and jazz as a vocal major which lead her to appear in plays and musicals on Broadway, being directed by such legends as Tommy Tune and Pete Masterson in Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public and Jerry Zaks in Face Value. In addition to her work on television and Broadway, Gina’s film credits include The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions and Sundance Film Festival Critics Choice, Don’t Let me Drown. Gina enjoys giving back through several philanthropic organizations; Heifer International, Dress for Success, Planned Parenthood and Save the Children.
Laurie Hernandez earned Olympic Gold and Silver medals as a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Team. Laurie is a second generation American, her grandparents are Puerto Rican, making her the first U.S. born Latina to make the U.S. team since 1984. Following her win at the Summer Olympics, she earned another title, champion on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. In 2017, Laurie became an inductee into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame and was recognized as the 2018 Nickelodeon Kids Choice Sports Biggest Kid. Most recently, Laurie served as a cohost of America Ninja Warrior Junior, and as the voice of Valeria on Nickelodeon’s Middle School Moguls. Laurie is the author of two books; I Got This: To Gold and Beyond, chronicling her journey thus far and a children’s picture book She’s Got This, each appearing on the New York Times Best Sellers list. When not in the gym, Laurie serves as Global Ambassador for Stomp Out bullying and travels the country inspiring young gymnasts and speaks to the next generation about following your dreams. Laurie will go for the gold again at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.