Why We Need an Ugly Betty Remake Now

Ugly Betty via ABC

A Yo Soy Betty, la Fea remake is on the way for 2024, but we’re not satisfied, because we want the Ugly Betty characters back, too! We’re not the only ones, America Ferrera recently admitted that an Ugly Betty remake has been a big dream for her for a long time. While revisiting the halls of Mode is not yet a given, Ferrera said they all would be back in a heartbeat and that gives me hope.

I was a child when Yo Soy Betty, la Fea premiered in Colombia and I loved Betty for her quirks, warmth, and unapologetic self away from stereotypes. As a good Latina, I had an obsession with telenovelas produced in Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil. But, at the time, Colombian telenovelas were bringing something the audience needed: realness.

When Ugly Betty was released, I was in college and more into TV series. Even though, I missed Latinx faces in these productions — there was so little representation that for every Latinx name in a series or movie, we celebrated. Ugly Betty was huge for us.

In it, we had an important ensemble of Latinx actors including Ana Ortiz, Tony Plana, Adam Rodríguez, Mark Indelicato, Freddy Rodríguez, and Salma Hayek (also as executive producer). But the icing on the cake was America Ferrera — who nailed the role.

Ugly Betty made history in U.S. television, but it was not the only version. The success of the original in Colombia acted as a platform for productions around the world. The popular story was adapted in countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Greece, Spain, and China. In the US, the production was decidedly Latinx, adding to the most successful telenovela in history according to the Guinness Book of Records.

Betty, la Fea froze Colombia and Latinxs in general in front of the TV for an hour a day; no one wanted to miss the love story, the makeover, the friends’ witticisms, and even the threats from their enemies. The production’s package is perfect and unusual; it was the first time the problems with the cult of beauty were addressed in such an authentic way. Finally, they were telling us that we could look different and still be the stars of our own stories! Betty, la Fea showed us a smart, professional, hard-working woman who doesn’t have it all figured out, but is deserving as she is.

Although for some it’s a cliché storyline about an ugly duckling, Betty doesn’t just change physically through the storyline, she grows as a person. Glasses and braces don’t make her ugly, she needs to believe in herself, understand what style works for her, and learn to defend her perspective. Just because she doesn’t fit the image of others, doesn’t mean she can’t be elegant and beautiful. So, her makeover in the last few episodes is not a superficial thing.

Ugly Betty presents a spirited woman who needs to learn self-confidence. The producer of the US series, Silvio Horta, explained why the word ‘ugly’ disappears in the last episode: “The word fades because it never really should have been there if we’re talking about who she is.”

But it’s not just about beauty, Ugly Betty added an additional layer: a Latina protagonist in one of the biggest series of the time. Betty became a powerful role model for Latinxs in the US, who saw themselves reflected on screen in an important, relevant, and popular show. The production could have adapted it in a different way, say with a white protagonist, but the result would not have been the same.

In terms of how likely a reunion of the US version is, ownership rights to the series were up in the air after Horta’s death in 2020, but nothing is impossible if Betty’s family puts their mind to it. “I think It’s time,” said Michael Urie (Marc St. James) about an Ugly Betty remake.

Although you can watch old episodes of Ugly Betty on Netflix right now, a second life will allow a new generation to connect with this story led by great Latinx characters, and delve into other issues relevant to the public today. Betty focuses on the diversity of beauty among female actresses – which is essential for today’s audiences. Not all Latinas are the same, our bodies, skin, hair, sexualities, and personalities are different, so Hollywood does everyone a disserve when they reduce us to stereotypes. To fill this gap, we need more Latina faces on screen reflecting the mixture of real Latinx communities. An Ugly Betty remake would help.

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