Widely known for her role of Miss Patty on Gilmore Girls, Liz Torres’ rise to stardom as an actress started somewhat unexpectedly. Being raised in Bronx, New York City, by immigrant parents, her mom dreamed of her working as a bank teller.
“‘Be a bank teller,’” Torres recalled her mother instructing her in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. “She had a fantasy of me working in a bank. That was her immigrant dream, the ultimate goal.”
“People who knew me in high school thought I was: A strange bird. I didn’t speak English very well, and my mother was very strict,” the Puerto Rican-American added. “I always wanted to be like an American, and I never really felt like that until now, I always felt like an immigrant.”
From early age, Torrez fell in love with the stage and performed in several productions in high school.
Following high-school, she attended Manhattan School of Music but dropped out in order to attend NYU instead. There, she found her passion in comedy, something she would pursue as a career.
“I was very serious about anything until an old Vaudeville-styled comic named Phil Foster, who was on the Tonight Show all the time, ran into me at a party. He said, ‘You’re very funny. You should do standup!’ I thought he was nuts. I said, ‘No, my English is not strong.’ He said, “You’re very funny. I’ll teach you how to write,” Torres told Starrymag.
“So, he taught me how to write comedy. I wrote a little nightclub act, and he worked on it with me and took me to Improvisation in New York, which was a little nightclub. I got up and had my first laugh, and I became a laugh [prostitute].”
One thing led to another and Torres ended up on The Tonight Show after a producer saw her perform. Her appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson proved to be a success. One thing that worked in her favor was that she was a New York native and could always jump in when a guest cancelled.
“They called me in if someone didn’t show up. Everyone wanted a secure date,” Torres explained.
“I was never like that, I kept my music at the door if I’d had to run out. I would replace people all the time. If an author got stuck in a snowstorm in Idaho, they’d call me, and I was there in five minutes.”
She became a familiar face and soon after, she started getting offers for movie roles. Eventually, she landed the role of Miss Patty on Gilmore Girls and starred alongside Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, and her longtime friend Sally Anne Struthers. Torres starred in a total of 79 episodes in a period of seven years.
However, as career blossomed, there was one thing she wasn’t happy about, her weight. Torres struggled to lose weight for many years and wished she could stop gaining it.
“I’m heavy. This is the reality. I don’t kick myself about it, but I don’t think I look fabulous in my clothes. I know that in my suits I look like a box walking down the street,” Torres told the Los Angeles Times in 1997.
“That’s the thing that hurts me most. Thank God, there’s a product out there that you can wear that’s passable. It’s corrective dressing, but it’s not who I am and ultimately that’s very hard.”
Being Hispanic and overweight was limiting and she knew she needed to do something about the latter.
“I would go on the set and people would not look at me. They also tend not to hear you. You have to make them focus on you. If I really want to be heard, I have that command but a lot of heavy women don’t. When I see someone heavy working on television I say, “Oh, God, go, girl. You do it.” You know, it shouldn’t stop your life,” she shared with Los Angeles Times.
But then, in 2010, Liz Torres appeared on the opening night of the Broadway show It Must Be Him and looked totally unrecognizable. She showed her impressive weight loss and people were stunned by her looks. Even today, she manages to keep the weight off and looks fabulous.