Legendary actress Rita Moreno described her struggle to gain power in her own life at Variety‘s Power of Women event presented by Lifetime.

“Given my background, feeling powerful is a significant reality,” Moreno said. “Growing up as a young Latina immigrant in a racist and patriarchal society, I honestly couldn¡¯t even imagine what that might have felt like. It was so far out of reach. All I could muster was the inner strength to work toward my dream of becoming a successful actress. But the struggle was a daily reality, and sadly, sometimes still is.”

Moreno was feted at the event alongside Channing Dungey, Katy Perry, Amanda Gorman and Lorde, whom Moreno referred to as a “bouquet of exceptional women.”

She went on to say that she was all but forced to find her own inner strength when she was “trying to avoid the gangs on [her] way to school” or “fending off unwanted and terrifying advances from various studio executives.” Moreno also said that her own mother used to tell her: ¡°You must listen to men, they are always right- be nice to them because they know everything and you know nothing. They can make things happen for you!”

Moreno continued by saying that power can be used in many different ways and can be seductive to those who have never had it before, but “how we use it will ultimately be what defines us.”

“And if that sounds like a warning, it is,” she said. “My hope is that as more women, like the ones honored here tonight, gain positions of power and influence, they continue to keep the fires burning for those who aspire. We live in a time that requires us to be vigilant. As women, many issues require our attention in these dark days — when our leaders politicize the wearing of masks and polarize our citizens over vaccines; when in the mind of many, climate change is science fiction and healthcare is still not codified as a basic human right in a divided America.

“None of us can take on the world by ourselves, but if there is one thing I am sure of in my 90 years, it is the power of a sisterhood of women working for change,” she concluded. “Life grows within us and we are its caretakers – we are heavily invested! I believe all women have the potential to bloom where they are planted.”