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An Open Letter to Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera

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January 19th, 2007

An open letter to America Ferrera, star of ABC’s Ugly Betty.
by Guest Blogger Olivia Ortiz

Dear Ms. Ferrera,

I found myself openly weeping with you as you took the stage to accept your Golden Globe award for “Best Actress” on Monday night. From your acceptance speech, I quote: “I hear from young girls on a daily basis how Betty makes them feel worthy and loveable and how they have more to offer the world than they thought.” As a young Latina feminist, I wanted to shout from the rooftop of my building my congratulations to you and to say thank you – thank you for exemplifying the class, ethnic and body ideals of this woman and of real women the world over.

As I watched you speak about your win, I thought back to a time when I first came to know beauty on my own terms. Perhaps like many young Latinas, before I knew you as Betty Suárez, I knew you as Ana, the young Mexican-American woman from East Los Angeles in Patricia Cardoso’s 2002 film, Real Women Have Curves. Perhaps unlike many young Latinas, however, by summer’s end of the same year the film was released, I had just endured a season in the Texas pageant circuit. Before meeting your headstrong and unapologetic feminist character in Cardoso’s film, I had met and internalized a vastly different knowledge of beauty – a knowledge mostly having to do with spray-on self-tanner and strappy heels. My transformation from aimless college co-ed in her early 20’s to dedicated and fierce feminist activist in her early 20’s I owe to fearless characters like Ana and Betty Suárez, and to fearless women like you, Ms. Ferrera.

I offer a warm congratulations and a thank you to you and to fellow feminist and Ugly Betty executive producer, Salma Hayek. Estoy muy agradecida, I am very grateful, for two incredible feminists like you who have taken the risk to remind countless numbers of young women that intelligence and ambition can defy more than just a Hollywood genre. After all, as race and media expert Yeidy Rivero points out in the latest Ms., “How many working-class, Mexican-American, clumsy, allegedly ‘ugly,’ intelligent women with an illegal-immigrant father have been portrayed on U.S. television? Until Betty’s arrival, none.” I take pride in this arrival, feeling confident that I stand with millions of other young Latin women as we all walk a little taller.

I look forward to following your career in film and television and anticipate an exciting new season from my new favorite show, a show where beauty looks less like a dream and a lot more like equality. ! Adelante Ugly Betty¡

In solidarity,
Olivia Ortiz

Bio: Guest Blogger Olivia Ortiz is a Mexican American feminist activist, a writer, and a staffer at the Feminist Majority Foundation, where she serves as a coordinator of West Coast campus programs.

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