Flashback to 2012. Picture a slightly gawky 14 year old with glasses and braces. Desperately trying to find my way in an all-girls school, I was beginning to navigate puberty. Passionate about my schoolwork and reading, I had a few close friends but not a huge crowd. The age-old issue for me was fitting in – I seemed different to the other girls at school. Also, I was dealing with teenage insecurities, not confident in who I was. Then I discovered Ugly Betty.
I’ll set the scene for you. Nestled in a quaint Scottish hotel in the Highlands with my parents, I was seeking entertainment and found Ugly Betty on YouTube. At last, I was watching someone who looked like me and I could relate to, and it felt amazing. The premise of the storyline may seem a little shallow to some, but watching our protagonist, Betty Suarez (America Ferrera), fight her way into Mode Magazine against all odds was so inspiring to 14 year old Olivia.
Though the overwhelming feelings were those of hope and empowerment, seeing Betty, a girl who was so down-to-earth and who battled many forms of discrimination to become successful, resonated with me. For the first time ever, I had some courage that I could be someone like Betty. Her character increased my faith and belief that I could achieve all my hopes and dreams, whatever I looked like. Soon, I was hooked on Ugly Betty.
“These days, I thank Betty Suarez and her lovely fictional family for giving me the confidence to reach my full potential.”
Frankly, I see Ugly Betty as one of the most influential shows of my generation; its overriding themes are ambition, female empowerment, and fighting against adversity. The show covered everything from feminism to homophobia, with script writers teaching audiences real life-lessons.
Suarez became an ally for me, a young fictional women who seemed to have such realistic struggles to get where she wanted to be. Her character was like my friend, an individual who embraced her quirks and dared to be different to her peers at Mode Magazine. Her tentative steps into the fashion world presented her as ‘ugly’ because she did not look like the others, but she thrived, with writers using humorous one liners to make audiences realise that she was just like them.
Any difficult times I found myself in, I just had to flick my television remote and put on Ugly Betty – the power of a fictional character to get me through challenging teenage times was undeniable. Motivated by her determination, I soon became a better and more driven person. These days, I thank Betty Suarez and her lovely fictional family for giving me the confidence to reach my full potential. I refer back to one particular scene whenever I am doubting my abilities – Betty becoming an editor at Mode after significant personal growth.
Ultimately, her desire to climb the career ladder empowered me to come to a final career decision, and made me passionate about becoming a journalist. So Betty Suarez, I am forever grateful to you. You helped me to understand that no matter what your circumstances, if you believe in yourself, you can do what you put your mind to – you truly changed my life.
Words by Olivia Devereux-Evans