Georgine America Ferrera (born April 18, 1984) is an American actress and producer. She is best known for her leading role as Betty Suarez on the ABC television series Ugly Betty(2006–2010). Her portrayal garnered critical acclaim, and she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy, the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series, and the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. She transitioned to a film career, starring in a number of films including, Real Women Have Curves (2002), The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005), its sequel Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (2008), The Dry Land (2010), End of Watch (2012), It's a Disaster (2012), and had a small role in the skateboard biopic Lords of Dogtown (2005). In addition, Ferrara provides the voice of Astrid the Viking in the Dreamworks animated picture How to Train Your Dragon (2010), Cartoon Network's television series based on movie, Dragons: Riders of Berk, and the upcoming sequel, How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014).
Ferrera, the youngest of sixteen children, was born in Los Angeles, California. Her parents, América Griselda Ayes and Carlos Gregorio Ferrera, were originally from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and immigrated to the United States in the mid 1970s. Her mother worked as the director of the housecleaning staff for Hilton Hotels, and stressed the importance of higher education. When she was 7, her parents divorced and her father returned to Honduras.Ferrera's father died in 2010.
Ferrera was raised in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles, where she attended Calabash Street Elementary School, George Ellery Hale Middle School and El Camino Real High School. From the time she was seven years old, when she landed a small role in a school production of Hamlet and then at age 10, the role as the Artful Dodger in Oliver!, Ferrera knew that she wanted to be a performer. Her first play was Romeo and Juliet, and although only in the third grade, she went to the junior high school and auditioned and got the role of the Apothecary. She acted in school plays and community theater in Los Angeles throughout her youth, though with little help from her mother, who insisted that she pursue other interests because she was concerned her daughter would not be treated fairly. Ferrera was forced to take the bus to auditions, though eventually her mother saw her daughter’s dedication and began to drive her. Ferrera disliked her first name as a child and went by her middle name, "Georgina", until she began acting professionally.
While at El Camino High School, she took acting lessons at the age of 15 and was able to pay for them by waiting tables and babysitting. She graduated with a 4.3 GPA and was named class valedictorian.
She entered the University of Southern California on a presidential scholarship, with a double major in theater and international relations. She dropped out of school one semester short of graduating due to her wanting to focus on Ugly Betty.
In July 2002, Ferrera made her first TV movie, Gotta Kick It Up! for The Disney Channel. While at a theatre program at Northwestern University that same year, she made her feature film debut in the indie sleeper hit Real Women Have Curves. Ferrera followed this with roles in both television (Touched by an Angel) and film. She was also in the movie Plainsong, based on the novel by Kent Haruf which starred Aidan Quinn and Rachel Griffiths. Ferrera plays a pregnant teenager, Victoria Roubideaux, who has been kicked out of her mother's house, and she is taken in by two kindly brothers who live alone on a farm. How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer came out in 2005, and she starred as the third generation of a Mexican-American family. She played Bianca, a 17 year old who while on the verge on womanhood is fed up with the boys in her neighborhood but finds romance with another boy from a neighboring town. In 2006, she appeared in the short film 3:52 which won the Audience Award at the San Diego Women Film Festival. Later that year she starred in Steel City which received nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards and the Sundance Film Festival.
In December 2005, she appeared in the off-Broadway play Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, directed by Trip Cullman.
She landed the lead role of Betty in Ugly Betty in 2006. Ugly Betty is an adaptation of the Colombian hit telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea, in which Ferrera portrays a girl whom her peers find extremely unattractive, thus the series title. As Betty Suarez, Ferrera wears braces, has bushy eyebrows and a disheveled wig, and make-up and clothing intended to downplay her own looks, in contrast to most of the "glammed up" characters; Ferrera herself coined the term “Bettification” to describe the process of creating her onscreen persona.The first run of Ugly Betty was completed with the series finale on ABC-TV on Wednesday, April 14, 2010.
For her role in Ugly Betty, Ferrera won the 2007 Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical. As a result of the award, she was congratulated by the U.S. House of Representatives as being a role model for young Hispanics. On January 28, 2007, Ferrera won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Female Actor in a Comedy Series.
In 2007, TIME chose Ferrera as one of the top artists and entertainers in their "Time 100: The Most Influential People In The World" issue. In July 2007, Ferrera won Imagen Foundation's Creative Achievement Award.
On September 16, 2007, Ferrera won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Comedy Series for her Ugly Betty role, the first Latina to win in that category. In the summer of 2007, she wrapped filming on The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, the sequel to the 2005 film The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, as Carmen. Among other film work, she supplied the voice of Astrid in the hit animated film How to Train Your Dragon (2010). She appears in The Dry Land which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and ran at the Dallas International Film Festival where it won the top prize in the Filmmaker Award for Best Narrative Feature.
As a presenter at the 2007 Film Independent's Spirit Awards, she said the United States won't be free again until President Bush leaves office in 2008. She was seen attending the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, pledging her support for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign. Ferrera is also active in getting Latinos in the United States to vote through her involvement with the organization Voto Latino by appearing on various news programs.
In 2012, America Ferrera was featured in the four-hour documentary Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, which premiered on PBS October 1 and 2, 2012. The series introduces women and girls living under very difficult circumstances and bravely fighting to challenge them. The Half the Sky PBS TV series is produced by Show of Force along with Fugitive Films.
Ferrera starred alongside David Cross and Julia Stiles in the dark comedy It's a Disaster, which premiered at the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival. Oscilloscope Laboratories has acquired the US distribution rights to the film, and plans to release it in select theaters starting April 13, 2013.