America has no problem portraying different roles, making her a very versatile actress. She has received numerous awards and nominations, such as Satellite Awards, ALMA Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Award. It is no surprise for her to receive such accolades, as she has been a very talented actress since she was ten years old. In an interview with America, she recalled how at such an early age, she already got into acting:
“Well, I started working in theater when I was quite young. I was probably 8 or 9 or 10, around there. I started acting wherever I could—at school, in a community theater—wherever I could do it, I did it.”
America is also a wonderful producer, and has produced films that connect to the heart of the person to which the movie is shown to. She states in an interview:
“I think it is a rewarding and powerful experience being involved in something from an idea all the way to the big screen. It’s a much different kind of experience than just being an actor … not that being an actor is not an important role as well. I just mean it’s much more involved when you’re a producer. It feels like a real labor of love.”
Not Bothered by Weight
One of the things that inspire us about America is her security and confidence in who she is. In the world of Hollywood where almost every woman is so concerned about being overweight or too slim, America shows no insecurity despite being quite ‘meatier’ compared to her fellow actresses.
This security is what enabled America to successfully play roles that other actresses would not even dare do, and given her a connection to a lot of teenage women who keep sending thank you letters to America for being an inspiration to them. In an interview with her, America discussed weight issues affecting young women in America:
“I think the body image thing, everybody can identify with that. In our culture there's just so much pressure and so much attention placed on the way we look. You just turn on the TV or flip open a magazine and there's people who don't look like any of us. I think this movie is like, finally, a celebration of reality and of our imperfections. We're not all a size 2 and we're not all a size 0, and you know what? That's OK, because some of us like to eat!”
Another trait that makes America extraordinary is the way she handled discrimination in her life. Being born into a Latin American family, she has witnessed and personally experienced racial discrimination. She says in an interview:
“There is this (older) generation that taught their kids to be color blind and yet have not really embodied that and then the generation that truly is. I'm not gonna say that everyone in my generation is (color blind). That's just not true but the way that the people I know and the people my age move in and out of cultural experiences and are in multi-racial relationships, that sort of racism is not a part of our language.”
And yet, in spite of the racism that she has witnessed and experienced, America has amazingly managed to let it pass and not let herself be brought down by what other people are saying. Throughout her career, America’s resilience and optimistic personality enabled her to become the successful actress that she is today.
America’s perspective on life is inspiring as she does not place any limits to herself. She is never afraid to get into something new, and keeps on challenging herself to move higher and higher not just in her career, but in her life overall. This has enabled her to take on challenging roles and successfully develop her as an outstanding actress. In an interview made with America, she states:
“I try not to put any rules or boundaries on what the next thing will be. I try not to plan what I’d like to be doing. Life always goes in the completely opposite way. I’m just sort of open to good stuff, good work, and good characters. I don’t know what form that’s going to come in next, whether it’s theater, film, or television … or who knows? I’m just staying open and hopeful that I will continue to either find or create meaningful work.”
But apart from all of the success that she has received in her show business career, what makes America a wonderful inspiration is her active work as a philanthropist. Aside from actively supporting over ten charitable organizations around the world, America has even started her own foundation, America4America, which aims to fight poverty and suffering in the United States by promoting the rights of every American citizen, no matter what race they may be from. She is also an advocate of the famous Half the Sky movement, and has appeared in one of the movement’s documentaries, where she worked with the women of Africa.
Acting at a Young Age
She was born America Georgine Ferrera in April 1984 in Los Angeles California. America is the youngest of six children by Carlos Gregorio Ferrera and America Griselda Ayes, who immigrated in the United States in the mid-1970s. Originally living in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, the couple went to the United States in search for a better life along with their children. Upon arriving in the United States, the Ferrera family settled in California, where Carlos took several jobs and his wife, America, became a member of the housecleaning staff for the Hilton Hotels in the area.
At a very young age, America already demonstrated her talent and skill in acting. She would act in front of her brothers and sisters and entertain them. America also expressed her desire to become a famous actress one day, but was discouraged by her mother who believed that acting was not a realistic career.
America’s mother kept encouraging her to study hard in order to become a successful doctor. In an interview made with America many years later, she recalled:
“I'm the youngest of six kids in a single-parent home—with my mom—so there's not, you know, all the resources in the world. But education was always the biggest thing in our family. It was 'You're gonna go to college. You're gonna get a professional job.’”
When America was only seven years old, her father Carlos left the family, leaving her mother to take care of them. It was a truly devastating time for them. Not only did America lose a father figure, her mom was left with six children to feed single-handedly. She said in an interview:
“It wasn't easy, but as a kid you find ways to make sense of it. It wasn't until I was older that I thought, 'Damn, I never really grieved over that'. And there have been male figures in my life who provided that kind of fatherhood role for longer than he was ever in my life.”
In spite of the seemingly overwhelming challenges that lay in front of America and her family due to their father leaving them, America’s mother never let the challenges weigh her and her children down. She diligently worked her way up the ladder, eventually becoming the director of the housecleaning staff. Her mother’s hard work and perseverance greatly inspired America that it, from that time on, encouraged her to pursue her dreams in life.
A Straight-A Student
America was raised in Woodland Hills, at the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. She received her elementary education at the Calabash Street Elementary School, where America was well-known for her acting talent. Afterwards, America entered George Ellery Hale Middle School and completed her studies at El Camino Real High School. America had a fairly standard education and did quite well in her studies, but it was her acting talent that got the attention of her teachers and classmates.
Even during her elementary years, America’s teachers already acknowledged her potential in becoming a great actress. As she moved further in her studies, so did her acting skills. By the time she went to college, America got the attention of someone in the show business industry who offered her a chance to star in her own show. When she was in her high school years, America became a straight A student, and graduated from El Camino with a 4.3 GPA and was named the class valedictorian.
America started acting when she was eight years old, performing in community theaters and school plays. During her third grade, America auditioned for the play “Romeo and Juliet,” where she managed to land the role of the Apothecary. This quite surprised a lot of people, due to America’s age. When America was seven years old, she was included in the cast of the school’s production of “Hamlet,” where she played a minor role.
Already wanting to become an actress, this experience further fueled America’s desire to become a performer; she continued to participate in various community theaters and school plays, constantly improving her acting skills. At age ten, she played the role of the Artful Dodger in “Oliver!”
Initially, America’s mother did not support her in her quest to become an actress. When America was still young, her mother kept on insisting that she abandon her goal of becoming an actress and pursue other interests, such as being a doctor, because she was quite concerned that her daughter would not be treated fairly.
When America told her mother about her decision to enter the world of show business at age ten, her mother was shocked. In fact, during an interview made with America years later, she recalled:
“I was like, 10. I was like, "OK, I'm gonna be an actor," and everyone just laughed. You know how when you're young you wanna be a fireman one day, a policeman the next? Everyone was like, "Oh, they're dreams. It'll pass. It'll pass." And it never passed. I just told them, "You just wait. One of these days..." I didn't know how. I just wanted it so bad I could taste it. I knew it would happen somehow, and I was going to make it happen… When I broke the news that I wanted to pursue an acting career, it was like a punch in my mom's gut. She wants to see me succeed and she's afraid, you know, the entertainment industry is such a precarious job. You're on top one day, you're on the bottom the next. So I can understand (her worry), but there's definitely been a struggle.”
Determined to be an Actress
It was definitely a struggle for America during the early years of her career, as she found it very difficult to convince her mother that acting was what she really wanted in life. In fact, when America took acting lessons at the age of sixteen, she saw no help from her mother, and had to support her acting school by waiting tables and babysitting. She was also forced to take the bus to auditions, which helped develop her confidence in life. She said, “I would ride on three different buses by myself. I wasn't afraid of very much at that age but, where I lived, no one rode the bus.”
In spite of experiencing such challenges, America never faltered in her desire to achieve her goal. She saw these challenges as stepping stones to help her move up the ladder. When she was interviewed many years later, America said:
“It helped me deal with life in a much more realistic way. Very early on in my life, I was thinking, 'Nobody cares who I am in this world. I could just be another kid who falls in the cracks, another pregnant teen or another druggie, and it's not going to affect anyone but me.' I would sit on that bus and think, 'That's not going to be me. I'm going to do something with my life.”
Eventually, America’s mother saw the dedication and passion that she put in her acting career no matter how hard it took, so she started supporting her daughter in her quest to become a good actress. She did make an agreement with America to ensure that her studies were not going to be hindered by her acting, which America made good by graduating at the top of her high school class.
Quitting University for Ugly Betty
After graduating from high school, America enrolled at the University of Southern California on a presidential scholarship, where she took up theater and international relations. She was an excellent student, and was praised by her professors for her intellect and brilliance. America had a bright future awaiting her after she graduated, but one semester prior to graduation, she had to quit school in order to focus on her acting career, where she played the title role of her hit television series, “Ugly Betty.”
Prior to this, America got her first television exposure when she starred in the television movie “Gotta Kick it Up!” by Disney Channel. After this role, America went to further improve her acting skills by joining a theater program at the Northwestern University. During her time there, America caught the attention of a producer who cast her in the title role of her feature film debut, the hit indie sleeper, “Real Women Have Curves.”
Her performance in the film was praised by many that after seeing her film, America started to receive numerous invitations to star in various films and television series, such as “Touched by an Angel” (the famous television series starring Roma Downey), the movie “Plainsong” (where America played the role of Victoria Roubideaux, a pregnant teenager who was kicked out of her mother’s house and was taken in by two kind brothers living in a farm), “How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer” in 2005 (where she played a teenage third-generation Mexican American girl who finds love with a boy from another town), and “Steel City” in 2006 (which brought America awards from the Independent Spirit Awards and the Sundance Film Festival).
In 2006, America auditioned for “Ugly Betty,” an American adaptation of the famous Colombian telenovela “Yo soy Betty, la fea,” and got the title role. In the television series, America played Betty Suarez, an unattractive girl who gradually works her way up the ladder and finds true love.
In order to portray the character of Betty, America had to wear braces, a disheveled wig, and had to wear make-up that would make her look ‘ugly’ (a process which America referred to as “Bettification”). In an interview made with America regarding her role as Betty, she said:
“The role of Betty is the role model—I think girls, as well as myself, have a lot to learn from her. Betty is the representation of a normal girl, and the more you get to know her, the more you realize she is just like anyone else. She is just as normal as one of the girls in "Sex and the City." The fact that she looks the way she does on the outside doesn't change the fact that everything on the inside is what normal people go through. But she is new and fresh, and has a set of values that young girls will appreciate. How can you not look up to a character who challenges herself to do the right thing?”
More Movies for America
Little did America realize that her portrayal of “Ugly Betty” would become such a hit. Right after the first few weeks of its release, “Ugly Betty” immediately received tons of praises from both its viewers and critics, praising America’s portrayal of the character because it was someone whom many could easily connect to.
The television show garnered a lot of followers, and America herself received numerous awards for her acting prowess—this included a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Female Actor in a Comedy Series, a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, and many others. America was even included in TIME Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2007 in the top artists and entertainers category.
That same year, America starred in the movie “The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2,” which also gave her numerous awards and nominations for her role in the film. In 2010, America did her very first voice acting in the movie “How to Train Your Dragon,” where she portrayed the buck-slashing Viking named Astrid, who was the love interest of the film’s main character.
The same year, America also did her first film-producing work when she produced and appeared in the independent film “The Dry Land,” which won the top prize in the Filmmaker Award for Best Narrative Feature. In an interview, America stated that while she was already producing small scale films in the past, this was the first ever film she produced for the big screen that was done on a large scale. She said:
“I’ve been a producer before on some smaller films but this is definitely my most in depth, getting my hands dirty type of thing.”
Getting Engaged to Boyfriend, Ryan Piers Williams
In 2010, America announced her engagement with Ryan Piers Williams, another famous actor and film director. The couple had known each other since 2007, and through a series of dates fell in love with each other. The following year, in June 2011, they got married.
Founder of America4America
America has been a firm supporter of President Barack Obama since she heard about him. In the 2012 Democratic National Convention which was held in North Carolina, America attended to show her support for the re-election campaign of President Obama. She has also been active in advocating the right of her fellow Latinos to vote, and has created her own foundation, “America4America,” as a means of promoting the importance of the vote of each of the Latinos in the United States.
That same year, America was featured in “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” a four-hour documentary that featured women and girls from all over the world who are bravely fighting poverty and suffering, with the help of well-known people.
Currently, America is actively engaged in her show business career. She has recently done a film with her fellow Hollywood stars, David Cross and Julia Stiles, “It’s A Disaster.” Shown in 2012 at the Los Angeles Film Festival, the film’s rights were bought by Oscilloscope Laboratories and is planned to be shown in select theaters nationwide in April 2013.
America typifies the kind of woman that many look up today, due to her perseverance and diligence in seeing her dreams come to pass. Her life story is an amazing inspiration to all of us to believe that we can fulfill our dreams if we are willing to work hard to make them happen.
Film and Television Career
- 2002: Real Women Have Curves
- 2002: Touched by an Angel
- 2002: Gotta Kick It Up!
- 2002-2011: Independent Lens
- 2004: Darkness Minus Twelve
- 2004: Plainsong
- 2004: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
- 2005: How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer
- 2005: The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants
- 2005: Lords of Dogtown
- 2005: 3:52
- 2006: Steel City
- 2006-2010: Ugly Betty
- 2007: Muertas
- 2007: Towards Darkness
- 2007: Under the Same Moon
- 2008: The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2
- 2008: Tinker Bell
- 2010: The Dry Land
- 2010: How to Train Your Dragon
- 2010: Our Family Wedding
- 2011: The Good Wife
- 2011: Handy Manny
- 2012: End of Watch
- 2012: It’s a Disaster
- 2012: Christine
- 2012-present: Dragons: Riders of Berk
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- AIDS Healthcare Foundation
- Cancer Research UK
- Clothes Off Our Back
- Dress for Success
- Half the Sky
- Nothing But Nets
- Peace First
- Real Medicine Foundation
- Save the Children
- Stand Up To Cancer
Awards and Achievements
- 2002: Won the Special Jury Prize for the Dramatic Category at the Sundance Film Festival (Real Women Have Curves)
- 2006: Received the Imagen Award for Best Actress (The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants)
- 2007: Received the ALMA Award for Outstanding Actress - Television Series, Mini-Series or Television Movie (Ugly Betty)
- 2007: Received the Family Television Award for Best Actress, TV Category (Ugly Betty)
- 2007: Received the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy (Ugly Betty)
- 2007: Received the Imagen Award for Best Actress, Television Category (Ugly Betty)
- 2007: Received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (Ugly Betty)
- 2007: Received the Satellite Award for Best Actress in a Series, Comedy or Musical (Ugly Betty)
- 2007: Received the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series (Ugly Betty)
- 2007: Received the Teen Choice Award for Choice TV: Breakout (Ugly Betty)
- 2007: Included in the 100 Most Influential People In The World by TIME Magazine
- 2008: Received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series (Ugly Betty)
- 2008: Named the Chevy Entertainer of the Year (Ugly Betty)
- 2009: Received the Muse Award from the New York Women in Film & Television (Ugly Betty)
- 2010: Received the Imagen Award for Best Actress, Television Category (Ugly Betty)