America Ferrera was just 17 when she hit the big screen in a role that not only elevated her career, but embraced the beauty of Latino culture and its generations of strong women. The 2002 movie Real Women Have Curves follows a full-figured high school senior, played by Ferrera, who liberates herself from societal standards and her family’s traditional values. “I was excited that there was a Latin American girl in the lead, one who came from a background that felt similar to mine,” Ferrera said about her breakout role.
Real Women Have Curves opened the door for the California-born actress, who’s gone on to star in more than 19 movies. How can we forget 2005’s The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants — long live friendship!
Her most memorable role, however, was on TV as Betty Suarez, in Ugly Betty. Ferrera teamed up with Salma Hayek to bring the Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea to an English-speaking market in the United States. “We were making this show we were all so proud of and I got to play this dream role," she said.
The show was on for four seasons, and it scored Ferrera multiple wins. She won a Best Actress Golden Globe along with Emmy, Screen Actors Guild, and Teen Choice awards for playing brace-faced, sweet Betty. Ferrera even made history as the first Latina to win an Emmy in the Lead Actress category — sí, se puede!
The filmmaker, activist, and advocate for Voto Latino (an organization aimed at getting Latinos in the U.S. to vote), has another successful TV show to brag about, Superstore. Ferrera said she was drawn to the role because of its diverse cast: “When it comes to diversity and breaking stereotypes and finding opportunities for non-white actors, progress gets made in these individual steps."
The cast is gearing up for the show's fourth season to premiere this fall on NBC.