April 18, 1984
Los Angeles, California, USA
Ryan Piers Williams
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Ever since her dynamic film debut in "Real Women Have Curves" (2002), actress America Ferrera earned considerable acclaim for playing complex roles despite her young age. Exuding grace, intelligence and maturity in her first leading role, which earned her an Independent Spirit Award nomination, Ferrera found herself suddenly in demand, landing both film and television roles in rapid succession. After memorable performances on an episode of "Touched By an Angel" (CBS, 1994-2003) and in the television movie "Plainsong" (CBS, 2004), she returned to the big screen in "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" (2005), stealing the show in an ensemble drama about four friends who share a very special summer together. Already a rapidly rising star, Ferrera delivered a charming and endearing portrayal of a young woman who struggles to fit into the high-pressure world of fashion on "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 2006- ), which earned the young actress a surprising Emmy Award and international fame.
Born on Apr. 18, 1984 and reared in Woodland Hills, California, Ferrera's parents emigrated to the United States from Honduras in the mid-1970's. Later, her mom divorced her father and raised six kids - five girls, one boy - while stressing the importance of higher education. All six graduated from college - Ferrera earned her degree in International Relations from the University of California, though she pursued acting throughout. From the time she was seven years old, when she landed a small role in a school production of Hamlet, Ferrera knew that she wanted to be a performer. She acted in school plays and community theater in Los Angeles throughout her youth, but with little help from her mom, who insisted that she pursue other interests. Not that her mother doubted her talent - far from it - but she was concerned whether or not her daughter would get a fair shake. Ferrera was forced to take the bus to auditions, though eventually her mom saw her daughter's dedication and began to drive her.
At 16, Ferrera signed with a small talent agency and began auditioning for commercials and other projects. Her first big break came at seventeen when she was cast as one of a handful of Latina girls transformed from a group of shiftless teens into a championship dance troupe by a schoolteacher in the Disney Channel's movie-of-the-week, "Gotta Kick It Up" (2002). On the strength of her performance, Ferrera landed the lead in "Real Women Have Curves," playing a young Latina determined to go to college to pursue her writing dreams rather than stay with her close-knit family and work in a dressmaking factory. The coming-of-age drama earned its share of good reviews and Ferrera was highlighted for her strong, charismatic performance.
Ferrera soon transitioned to television, appearing as a high school student with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in "Touched By an Angel" (CBS, 1994-2003). She then landed the dreaded role of a pregnant teen forced out of her home in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production, "Plainsong" (CBS, 2004). After appearing in an episode of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000- ), Ferrera was next seen as the real-life skateboarding groupie, Thunder Monkey, in "Lords of Dogtown" (2005), the rags-to-riches tale about the famed Z-Boys who revolutionized their sport despite falling prey to the trappings of celebrity. She then appeared in "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" (2005), a coming-of-age drama about four life-long friends who split apart for the first time in their lives, but keep in touch by sharing a pair of pants that magically fits each of their distinct frames. Ferrera gave a strong performance as the introspective, but volatile Carmen who spends the summer with her absentee father.
Ferrera made a break with the feature world when she was asked to play the lead role on the one-hour drama "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 2006- ), an Americanized version of the popular Columbian telenovela "Yo Soy Betty Le Fea" (RCN, 1999-2001) that was brought to the states by actress Selma Hayek, who served as the show's executive producer. The classic fish-out-of-water tale centered on Betty Suarez (Ferrera), an awkward college graduate in oversized braces, red-rimmed glasses and bad outfits who dreams of one day running her own fashion magazine. Cheerful, intelligent and possessed of an inner beauty that allows her to survive the cutthroat fashion industry, Betty struggles to be herself in a superficial world while staying true to her Latino culture at home. Audiences clearly were clearly charmed by Ugly Betty's inner beauty: Ferrera won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 2007. After reprising Carmen for "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" (2008), Ferrera continued to earn recognition for "Ugly Betty," securing a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical in 2008.
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