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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The United States of America Ferrera

I just adore watching America Ferrera (Real Women Have Curves). She is beautiful in a very real, approachable way, and she is a good actress with a real knack for comedy. So when I heard that she was chosen to play Betty in the ABC's Ugly Betty, the new U.S. incarnation of Yo Soy Betty La Fea, I was excited. There are many people in the U.S. who might not be familiar with the original Colombian version of Betty, nor its Mexican version, La fea más bella. The ugly duckling story will no doubt resonate with viewers, however. Ferrera plays Betty Suarez, a young woman from Queens who is determined to be a magazine editor. She is confident, intelligent and ambitious--she's also a bit on the plain side. When she applies for her first job after college, the human resources manager takes one look at her and lies that the position has been filled. Fortune smiles on Betty, however, when young Daniel Meade, the son of magazine publisher Bradford Meade, is made editor in chief of Mode magazine. Daniel can't keep his hands off his assistants and it's keeping him from doing his job--so his dad decides to hire Betty, a girl he knows daniel won't want to sleep with. Daniel starts out hating her but then realizes that she has ideas that might help save his job. The first two episodes have been absolutely charming, filled with cartoonish energy and sly humor. Ms. Ferrera shines, and even when she is surrounded by models, you can't take your eyes off of her (in a good way).

Of course, there are a lot of unsettling feminist implications in Ugly Betty. It all depends in which direction the U.S. version decides to go. Will Betty end up getting a makeover and marrying her boss like she does in Yo Soy Betty La Fea? I hope that the show comes up with a slightly different ending, for the sake of novelty and dignity. At this point, I'm not going to be too critical--having a normal looking Latina woman starring in a primetime tv show on a major U.S. network seems like enough of a victory for now.

Ugly Betty airs on Thursday nights on ABC at 8 ET/PT. Give it a chance!


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