Let's Get Physical... with Rita Moreno!

By: Frank Mills

Rita Moreno is fierce.

Seriously, this woman never stops inspiring me. As a young, privileged kid from Big City, USA who dreamed of an exciting life in Hollywood, Rita and her amazing accomplishments made me believe that any dream was possible.

In a way, she felt like a kindred spirit, and the similarities between us were palpable and intense.

Granted, I wasn’t a poverty stricken kid from Puerto Rico, but I could have been.

But let’s not forget that Rita Moreno was the second performer in the history of the world to win an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony, and a Grammy. (No, the first wasn’t Barbra—it was Helen Hayes. Barbra never won a performance Tony, they just conveniently handed her a “special” one in 1970. Like that counts.)

The point here is that Rita can do anything. And when she tells me that I can do something, you can bet your Electric Company cast album Grammy that I’m gonna believe her.

Which brings us to Rita’s 1989 VHSercise extravaganza Now You Can! This workout is not only a calorie burner, it’s designed to “make you feel terrific about yourself.” And it does.

According to Rita, this tape is not for the perfect body crowd. We’re all blessed with different body types, she says, and “seeking perfection is a huge waste of time.” Right on, sister. The exercises haven’t even begun and she’s already pumping us up with her wisdom.

The program breaks down like this: there’s a warm-up; a firm and tone section (thighs, abdomen, and buttocks); an upper body strengthening for your chest, arms, and back; followed by low-impact aerobics and what Rita likes to call the “cool-up” section. (This final part has to be seen to be believed, but I will tell you that it involves scarves and is probably just as much fun to watch as it is to do.)

The production values here are top drawer all the way. Now You Can! is bathed in pastels that practically scream motivation in color form. Rita’s pink and teal workout ensemble is extremely slimming but jarring enough in that now-hideous-’80s sort of way to get you off the couch and flexing whatever Rita tells you to flex. Large, billowy drapes and giant geometric blocks dress up the set, while a simple table with a bowl of fruit and an ugly lamp adorns Rita’s corner, where she provides the most inspirational part of her amazing video. “Each day, everyday, I celebrate myself,” she says, “you can too!” Like I said, Right on, sister.

But there's more: “Whoever you are, whatever you’ve done, you have power. You have value!"

Rita rocks. In fact, Rita gives until it hurts. And if you're gonna hurt, you might as well hurt from someone who's conquered movies, TV, Broadway, and records. Plus she's skinny. So, if why not exercise to Rita?

I'm just sayin'...