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.”
America Ferrera just helped power Barbie into a billion-dollar success story, but growing up, she says, there were “no successful actresses like me.”
Speaking at the Academy Women’s Luncheon, presented by Chanel, which was held at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles Thursday, Ferrera, 39, recalled how remote her aspirations seemed as a first-generation daughter of Honduran immigrants.
“I was given the assignment to assimilate, excel and succeed. That meant leaving my heritage behind and trying to fit in,” Ferrera said of growing up in L.A. during her keynote speech.
The actress — who spoke before an energized crowd that included Annette Bening and Lupita Nyong’o, roughly 12 hours after the historic SAG-AFTRA strike ended — also talked frankly of her youth exploring her talent in public school theater departments. “Despite my best efforts, I would remain ‘other’ to those around me — too Latina to be fully American, and too whitewashed to be accepted as Latina,” she recalled.
“After all, there were no successful actresses like me. I was brown, short, overweight, and poor. I had no connections to the business and no money to pay for expensive acting programs. I had no community huddled around me, supporting my dreams. I, alone, held the vision for my life, and the belief that maybe I could do something I had never seen anyone like me do before,” said Ferrera.
By the time she became more successful in projects like Real Women Have Curves, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Ugly Betty, “I was used to standing on my own,” she explained, pointing to the loneliness and isolation of being “the only woman, or the only person of color in an important meeting or on set.”
Ferrera said she eventually found community by seeking out more Latinas in her orbit and later encountering a “transformative” sisterhood following 2017’s #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.
“We must be resolute in our commitment to demanding opportunity, access, equal pay, investment and possibility for every woman,” she said. “What I know today is that none of us needs to do it alone.”
Also at the luncheon were Eva Longoria, Kristen Stewart and her screenwriter fiance Dylan Meyer, Rita Wilson, Riley Keough, Leslie Mann and daughter Maude Apatow, Lily-Rose Depp, Greta Lee, H.E.R., director Gina Prince-Bythewood, Ashley Park, Sadie Sink and Academy president Janet Yang.
With news of the strike ending arriving the night prior, stars were still reeling. “My biggest reaction’s like, “Let’s f–g go!” an elated Longoria tells PEOPLE. “Everybody wants to be back on the set, wants to get back to work.”
Wilson tells PEOPLE that she and Tom Hanks got the news Wednesday night and felt “utter relief. Just to be able to say like, ‘Oh, thank God. It’s over.’ We had heard rumblings that maybe it was going to happen over the weekend. And so when it came through, it was actually just a relief. So many people have been hurt by this. And yet sometimes you you’ve got to hold out and get things that you want. So I’m eager to see what it is that we’ve agreed to.”
And at the airy November luncheon, Barbie’s summer success story was still top of mind for many.
“I think the entire industry needs to stop using the model of what they’ve seen before to calculate success, Barbie being a perfect example,” director Patty Jenkins, who directed Monster with Charlize Theron and Gal Gadot’s two Wonder Woman films tells PEOPLE.
“Again and again these movies seem so shocking and surprising when they succeed, but they shouldn’t be. People are craving diverse voices,” she adds.
The luncheon marked the sixth anniversary of the Gold Fellowship for Women, the Academy’s program to support emerging women filmmakers, with this year’s fellowship granted to The Ghost filmmaker Erica Eng. Made possible by Chanel, the program reflected the fashion house’s deep commitment to nurturing the next generation of women filmmakers.
Great news! SAG-AFTRA have reached a tentative agreement with the AMPTP. This means that actors are able to resume their work filming projects for television, commercials, and movies. Congratulations to the members of SAG-AFTRA on their new contract!