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From ‘Ugly Betty’ to ‘Barbie’: How America Ferrera’s Inspiring Career is Making Latinas Feel Seen

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Thinking of America Ferrera conjures images of a vibrant, passionate Latina artist who burst onto the scene in “Real Women Have Curves” and never looked back. Her career is a tapestry woven with threads of groundbreaking achievements, paving the way for Latinas in Hollywood and beyond.

Nearly 20 years into her trajectory, Ferrera has been an inspiration for Latinas everywhere, proving that representation is important, valuable, and necessary. So far, 2024 has been an ode to this Honduran-American actress’ hard work.

First, her “Barbie” monologue was recited by none other than Kevin Costner at the Golden Globes. Then, on January 14, she was honored with the SeeHer Award at the 29th Annual Critics Choice Awards for her work as both an activist and an actress. And yes, we’re still tearing up every time we hear it.

“Receiving the SeeHer Award for my contributions to more authentic portrayals of women and girls — could it be more meaningful to me?” Ferrera said.
“I grew up as a first-generation Honduran American girl in love with TV, film, and theater, who desperately wanted to be a part of a storytelling legacy that I could not see myself reflected in.”

Adding, “Of course, I could feel myself in characters who were strong and complex, but these characters rarely, if ever, looked like me. I yearned to see people like myself on screen as full humans.”

Now, we’re looking back at Ferrera’s career from the bubbly Betty Suarez, fierce Lupe Vélez, and powerful Gloria to her historic new accolade.

“Real Women Have Curves” proved Ferrera wasn’t pumping the breaks when it came to shattering stereotypes

Just as other Latina artists like Jennifer Lopez were rising in the late 90s and early 2000s, the 39-year-old actress shattered stereotypes with her role as Ana García in “Real Women Have Curves.” The vibrant character was among the first times Latinas saw themselves represented on the screen through a fully dimensional character. The film not only drew attention to Ferrera, but challenged Hollywood’s narrow beauty standards through a celebration of curves and self-acceptance.

Beauty and power were reinvented through Ferrera’s role in “Ugly Betty”

One of the most well-known characters in Ferrera’s repertoire is the bespectacled, brace-faced heroine Betty Suarez in “Ugly Betty.” While the show ensued iconic hilarity, it also spoke of deeper issues within the Latino community, corporate America, and beyond. It also challenged the views of what being “fea” was defined by, as the main character confidently rocked clashing prints, a Mexican poncho, and quirky fashion without missing a beat.

As Margot Robbie pointed out while presenting Ferrera with the SeeHer Award, through the role of Betty “[Ferrera] blazed a trail for Latina actresses while teaching everyone we are so much more than what we think we are.”

Sisterhood beyond a pair of pants

With “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” Ferrera joined the likes of Blake Lively, Alexis Bledel and Amber Tamblyn to show how friendship goes beyond distance, size and cultural background. It inspired Latinas everywhere to pursue friendship, go after their goals, and feel supported while doing so. Of course, we’re all still wondering where we can find those jeans.

Ferrera is the first Latina to win a Golden Globe, Emmy, and Screen Actor’s Guild Award for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Have we mentioned this Barbie is a trailblazer? As Betty Suarez, Ferrera made history becoming the first Latina to win a Golden Globe, Emmy, and Screen Actors Guild Award for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. Her win was one for all Latinas inspired to continue chasing their dreams while finally seeing themselves on screen. You go Muze!

The “Barbie” monologue every woman can relate to

Beyond the roles that carried many Latinas through their teens and young adulthood comes a different side to Ferrera — a Barbie girl who conveys every aspect of how womanhood feels. Playing Gloria in “Barbie,” Ferrera’s monologue has gone viral for its accurate depiction of how women feel ALL THE TIME.

“It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough,” the monologue starts. “Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong.”

Then continues, “You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass.”

“You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people.”

It goes on, and you can watch the rest of it here:

Ferrera praised “writers, directors, producers, and executives” for allowing her to shine

During her speech at the Critics Choice Awards, Ferrera dove deep into the nuances of the entertainment industry, going back to her early days in Hollywood.

“When I started working over 20 years ago, it seemed impossible that anyone could make a career portraying fully dimensional Latina characters,” she said. “But because of writers, directors, producers, and executives who are daring enough to rewrite outdated stories and to challenge deeply entrenched biases, I, and some of my beloved Latina colleagues, have been supremely blessed to bring to life some fierce and fantastic women.”

She then named some of Hollywood’s up-and-coming Latina talent, such as Jenna Ortega, Selena Gomez and her on-screen daughter Ariana Greenblatt. However, the end of her speech brought the room to roaring applause.

“To me, this is the best and highest use of storytelling to affirm one another’s full humanity, to uphold the truth that we are all worthy of being seen,” she added. “Black, brown, indigenous Asian, trans, disabled, any body type, any gender. We are all worthy of having our lives richly and authentically reflected.”