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America Ferrera Source > Photo Sessions > From 2023 > Session #09
America Ferrera is reflecting on how her body has been viewed in Hollywood throughout her career.
Speaking with ELLE for their 2023 Women in Hollywood issue, the 39-year-old actress recalled how “ridiculous” it was that a lot of her early roles — like in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or Ugly Betty — were centered around her body type.
“What’s so insane is, you go back and look, and I had a very average-size body. And so the idea that people were looking at me and saying, ‘That’s curvy’ is crazy. Not that I care, but it’s like, that’s insane that we thought that was so groundbreaking,” she told the outlet. “I was Hollywood’s version of imperfect, which seems so ridiculous.”
“I don’t feel alone in that either,” she added. “There are so many women who were called brave, just because they are people in bodies.”
As she continues her acting career, Ferrera said she’s hoping to move away from being typecast based on the standards that others set for her and to continue landing roles that push boundaries, like her most recent roles in Barbie and Dumb Money.
“What I continue to wish for my career, and women’s careers and people of color’s careers, is that we don’t have to exist inside of these boxes or these lanes — that we don’t have to be relegated to represent just the thing that the culture wants us to represent,” she said.
Ferrera continued, “I want to be more of who I am as a person, and to get to make art that doesn’t fit into any of the boxes and isn’t about the dominant conversation people have wanted to have about me because I’m a woman who doesn’t fit into stereotypical Hollywood.”
This isn’t the first time Ferrera has been candid about what it’s like to be in the spotlight and have her physical appearance scrutinized.
Back in 2017, the actress told Redbook that gaining body confidence has been a work in progress and she’s learned that there’s more to a woman’s value than her appearance.
“I grew up believing a lot of things about myself that I had to unlearn — things that pertain to being a good woman, things about my weight or height,” she said at the time. “As women, you’re taught that your value is all about your appearance, not your ideas and your tenacity and your courage and your bravery and your adventurous spirit. Look, I love getting dressed up and looking beautiful. But that’s one tiny piece of me.”
America Ferrera hasn’t yet come face-to-face with any of the women who have memorized her stirring Barbie speech about the complexity of modern femininity—but she expects that such encounters are coming.
“I’ve seen lots of videos online of people learning the monologue and doing the monologue,” Ferrera told Vanity Fair at the Women in Film Honors gala on Thursday, where she received the Jane Fonda Humanitarian Award. “The only person I’ve heard do it verbatim was Ariana Greenblatt, the actress who played my daughter. She had heard it so many times by the end of filming it that she repeated it back to me—and it actually made me cry!”
Ferrera may not have expected that before the night was over she’d witness Fonda herself recite a few choice snippets from that zeitgeist-tapping monologue written by Greta Gerwig, as the icon presented Ferrera with her namesake award.
Alluding to Ferrera’s breakout role in Real Women Have Curves, Fonda also proclaimed that “real women stand up and speak for what’s right, even when it makes the powers that be—usually men—uncomfortable, maybe especially when it makes the powers that be uncomfortable. She’s there for climate change, for women’s rights, reproductive rights, democracy, voting rights, immigrant rights, and always human rights. I’ve never been happier to say the words on a stage: I love America!”
Female empowerment was downright palpable in Hollywood’s Ray Dolby Ballroom during WIF’s 50th annual celebration, a sensation Ferrera’s gotten increasingly used to.
“It has been amazing to sit back and watch Barbie land in the culture, not just here but globally. And to see what it means to women to be celebrated, and to talk about some hard realities but through joy and through the color pink, and intelligent storytelling that is about women and by women. But it’s for everybody,” she said. “The incredible success of Barbie and the genius of Greta and Margot [Robbie] is a win for all of us. It’s a win for the argument that we have to make all the time: that women storytellers should be empowered and given creative power to tell stories the way that they want to tell stories, and that it’s enough for women to tell stories about women for women the way that men have told stories about men for men.”
From starring in comedy favourite Ugly Betty, to a lead role in this year’s blockbuster Barbie, America Ferrera has had a “fairy tale” journey to success.
She’s the first – and only – Latina to win an Emmy for a leading role.
But she’s also keenly aware that she’s almost unique in carving out these achievements.
“While I enjoy an incredible career full of opportunity that I have fought hard for and worked hard for,” she tells BBC 100 Women, “I know that the vast reality for Latinos in this industry is that it’s as difficult today as it was 16 years ago, or even 22 years ago when I started out.”
Latinos are the largest minority group in the US, making up about 20% of the population. But that hasn’t translated into on-screen representation, Ferrera says.
“They are anomalies, these moments where Latinos get to shine. And of course we’ve had those moments, but I feel like we’ve all been waiting a really long time for the watershed”, says Ferrera, who has been named one of the BBC’s 100 Women for 2023.
“It’s complicated to reconcile the almost fairy tale story of my journey with what I know is the reality for the vast majority of people like me.”
Born in California to Honduran immigrants, Ferrera says she grew up “believing in the American dream”.
“I had been taught so early on by my parents, specifically my mother, that taking advantage of every opportunity to get an education was why they immigrated to the United States,” she says.
But navigating between her heritage and mainstream culture made it “confusing” to establish her identity, she says.
Being called America didn’t make things any easier either.
“Everyone assumed that it was it a patriotic homage by my immigrant parents. But the truth is, in Latin America the name America is much more common,” says the actress, who is named after her mother.
Her start in the entertainment industry brought its own set of challenges.
Before landing her first role aged 17, she says she was told she was “too brown, too short, too chubby, or too ethnic-looking” for the industry.
Her breakthrough role as Betty Suárez on ABC’s hit comedy Ugly Betty, in 2006, earned her a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild award and that Emmy – making her the only Latina woman to win one for a leading role.
“It’s 2023, and I’m still the only one which I think, you know, points exactly to the issue. It took so long because the opportunities don’t exist,” says Ferrera.
“How lucky and fortunate I have been in my career to be coming up in a time where I was met with the sparse opportunities that exist for a young Latina actress to get to be the lead… much less a lead that is self-determining and is not represented as a as a poor immigrant criminal, or a hyper-sexualized Latina.”
More career success came with the hit workplace comedy series Superstore, which she starred in and produced.
This year she also made headlines for her role in director Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster Barbie, where she delivered an impassioned monologue that resonated with women around the world.
Her scene-stealing speech – which reportedly took between 30 and 50 takes to perfect – sees Ferrera’s character Gloria grapple with the double standards and societal pressures that women face.
“Feelings like anger and resentment and righteousness, or even joy and silliness and fun… to get to witness those expressions [on screen] is a cathartic feeling,” says Ferrera.
“And for so many of us, there are so many of those experiences that have never been shared in mainstream media.”
She says roles like this one can create spaces for women, and women of colour in particular, to validate their own life experiences.
“We often have to divorce ourselves from parts of ourselves that are not welcome,” she says.
“The truth is that so many of us underrepresented communities are still just fighting to be visible”.
At 39, Ferrera is set to make her feature directorial debut next year with I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, an adaptation of Erika Sánchez’s best-selling novel about a first-generation Latino immigrant living in an impoverished neighbourhood in Chicago.
The film’s themes are close to Ferrera’s activism.
She co-founded Harness, an organisation that amplifies the voices and experiences of underrepresented communities in popular culture, especially around issues of social justice.
She’s also passionate about political engagement and spends time going around minority communities, encouraging involvement.
In the lead-up to the 2020 presidential elections, Ferrera launched an Instagram series to unpack and demystify the voting process, where she addressed topics like voter suppression for black, brown, female and young voters with clarity and humour.
Now she is looking ahead to the 2024 ballot.
“My focus in my domestic politics is about keeping people engaged in the process,” she says.
“I think one of the biggest dangers to democracy is just our despondency, the feeling that it won’t make a difference if we are paying attention and showing up, when in fact those outcomes most certainly create the conditions of our lives.”
Recently she invested in an all-female professional football team, founded by fellow actress Natalie Portman in Ferrera’s home city, Los Angeles, that strives to guarantee equal pay and conditions for female athletes.
“It’s very hard to change when the systems that remain are still set up to benefit people who’ve always been in positions of power. We have to see a power shift, we have to see real power move,” she says.
Suddenly she sounds excited, ready to challenge the status quo.
“I have a proposal!” she says.
“We take all the money people spend on doing diversity panels and just use all that money to hire women and people of colour to make things.
“It’s really not that complicated… it isn’t about charity. It’s about good business.”
America Ferrera moderated a panel discussion for “Barbie” on November 17th in Los Angeles. You can watch it in the video below!
America Ferrera attended three different events across three consecutive days in three different cities last week! She attended the Glamour Women of the Year event in New York, the “Latin Power” event hosted by The Hollywood Reporter in Miami, and the Academy Women’s luncheon in Los Angeles. There are now 50+ HQ/MQ photos added to our photo gallery of America Ferrera from the various events.
Click on the preview links below to see all the images added to America Ferrera Source!
America Ferrera Source > Public Appearances > From 2023 > Glamour Women Of The Year 2023 (Show)
America Ferrera Source > Public Appearances > From 2023 > Glamour Women Of The Year 2023 (Backstage)
America Ferrera Source > Public Appearances > From 2023 > The Hollywood Reporter’s Latin Power Event
America Ferrera Source > Public Appearances > From 2023 > The Hollywood Reporter’s Latin Power Event (Panel)
America Ferrera Source > Public Appearances > From 2023 > Academy Women’s Luncheon
America Ferrera Source > Public Appearances > From 2023 > Academy Women’s Luncheon (Show)
The Critics Choice Association has announced that Edward James Olmos, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Ken Jeong are among the honorees for the upcoming Celebration of Cinema and Television: Honoring Black, Latino and AAPI Achievements. The event will be held at the Fairmont Century Plaza on December 4, with Nicco Annan of “P-Valley” set to host.
Additional honorees include Jeffrey Wright, who will receive the Visionary Award for his role in “American Fiction”; America Ferrera will receive the Groundbreaker Award for her performances in “Barbie” and “Dumb Money”; Charles D. King will receive the Producer Award for working on “They Cloned Tyrone”; Eva Longoria will accept the Breakthrough Director Award for “Flamin’ Hot”; Greta Lee will receive the Actress Award for starring in “Past Lives”; and Colman Domingo will receive the Actor Award for starring in the title role in “Rustin.”