Jen Juneau is a digital news writer for PEOPLE. A '90s teen and horror film connoisseur, she started at the brand in 2016, after a decade of working as a technical writer and then moonlighting as a journalist beginning in 2013. Originally from New Orleans, Jen grew up both in NOLA and Florida and eventually attended the University of Central Florida in Orlando (still her home base!), where she earned a bachelor's in English/technical communication, with a minor in magazine journalism.
Rita Moreno is celebrating another trip around the sun!
The EGOT winner turned 91 on Sunday with a surprise party from her daughter Fernanda Luisa Gordon, who shared photos from the celebration to her Instagram grid and with PEOPLE.
Gordon, 56, was joined at Moreno’s home by the actress’s son-in-law David Fisher, grandson Justin Fisher and close friends, including author Amy Tan and her husband.
"It was a white party with beautiful white decorations and white fairy lights to complement her fresh white condo," Gordon tells PEOPLE.
And Moreno “was absolutely surprised” at the gathering, as “she thought that she was coming upstairs just to see a new light fixture — she didn’t realize that the place would be full of friends.”
"She had said to me previously how much she wished she could celebrate her birthday in her new home but she just didn't see how to make it happen, so she was thrilled that I made it happen," Gordon adds of her mother.
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RELATED GALLERY: Rita Moreno’s Life in Photos, in Celebration of Her 91st Birthday
Gordon shares more details about the party with PEOPLE, including that guests dined on "a dinner of paella made by a local caterer" before some unforgettable entertainment.
“A strange man came to the door in a black suit and hat and burst into the living space to start serenading [Moreno] with old Frank Sinatra tunes [into] a microphone at the top of his lungs,” she recalls. “Most people had no idea what was going on, and we were laughing and enjoying his goofy renditions.”
“At the end of his act he announced he was sent by Norman Lear and Brent Miller and called Brent on FaceTime, who wished her a happy birthday since he couldn’t be there,” Gordon continues of her mom’s big night.
But the moment the singer recognized the birthday gal was one for the books. As her daughter explains, "The funniest part was the singer did not know who she was. All he was given was the name Rita!"
“After he finished singing, he looked around and saw all of the old photos I had put up of her as part of the décor and he said, ‘Oh, I see you have Rita Moreno here on your table,’ and she said, ‘Well, I am Rita Moreno,’ and he almost died,” Gordon says. “He got on his knees and started singing songs from West Side Story. He was bowled over, and we were all in hysterics! … She was so touched.”
Among the social-media tributes to Moreno in honor of her big day, which she shared to her Instagram Story, were ones from her West Side Story remake costar Ariana DeBose (who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita, Moreno’s character from the 1961 film), Viola Davis and more.
Sharing a photo of herself and Moreno from the party, Tan paid tribute to the acting legend in a lengthy caption on Instagram.
“This is 91,” Tan began. “I am so lucky to have Rita Moreno in my life. We’ve known each other 21 years. She is a force for not just good but great, a source of fun and laughs, a bulls— detector, a survivor of racism in Hollywood, a generous friend in sharing ideas and stories and food, and a wide-eyed girl in go-go boots who never imagined she would one day win an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, Tony and Golden Globe.”
"One of her friends sent a birthday singing telegram to 'Rita Gordon.' The singer said at one point that Rita looked 61, not 91, and that she also resembled Rita Moreno," Tan added. "Happy birthday, Rita Moreno."
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