Friday, January 6, 2017

Ten Years Later, 'Ugly Betty' Means So Much More to Me

Within the first few months of moving back home from college last year, I decided to take television more seriously. During college, I took a hiatus from watching new shows and was overall out of the television loop. I had so much to catch up on.

However, I couldn't find anything I was interested in and found myself continuously scrolling through Netflix. Then I stumbled upon Ugly Betty. I remember watching the first season when it first aired in 2006, but for some reason I never finished watching Betty Suarez work her fashion magic at Mode, the fictional fashion magazine she worked for. I decided to casually start watching it and see how much I remembered of the first season. I ended up finishing all four seasons in a very short amount of time...

My, oh, my. I fell in love with Betty Suarez even more than I did in 2006. When I first watched Ugly Betty, I was only twelve years old. I was still growing and learning, not really sure of who I was, the impact my culture had on my identity, and how much I would accomplish. Ten years later, Betty Suarez's character embodied all of those things I identified so closely with and more. Betty Suarez was a proud Latina, famously flaunting her Guadalajara poncho on her first day of work at Mode. She was college-educated, hard working, passionate about writing, intelligent, and sharp. She was a genuinely good person who loved her friends fiercely and her family even more. She was confident in her own skin, even when so many people tried to bring her down. She was unapologetic about her fashion choices, never shying away from a smile with her bright braces at age 23. She was a Latina who dreamed big even though she came from humble beginnings. Betty Suarez was an average girl who had all the odds against her, but was still able to persevere and work her way to the top at Mode. Obviously, none of this happened over night and Betty was constantly challenged throughout those four seasons. Eventually, *spoiler* she found her voice, discovered her potential, and decided to move to London to pursue her passion for writing. In the end, everyone at Mode realized how much they needed her. More importantly, I needed her. 

As someone who had freshly graduated from college and was working in her first 'real world' job, it was undeniable how much stress I felt. I often sought encouragement from family, friends, and mentors. I realized how fortunate I was to have a job months after graduating college, but was constantly intimidated by my position and potential. When I looked around, there weren't many people who looked like me. I was not fully confident in my voice within such a large company and was afraid to fail as much as succeed. What I was unaware of was the powerful impact Ugly Betty would have on me to keep me motivated during this time. I fell in love with Betty because she was perfect in every way it mattered. In 2006 or 2016, Betty Suarez is the perfect example of showing girls like me that we can become women ready to go out there for what's ours. She was a visual reminder for me of Latinas who kick ass and work hard to succeed in their professional and personal lives. No matter how much times passes, these types of stories on television have and will always matter.

Ugly Betty came out in 2006 and was still just as relevant in 2016. We need more stories like Betty's and we will always need characters like her. The most relevant character that has infused within me a similar passion and self reflection is 2014's Jane Villanueva from Jane the Virgin, which I previously have written about. Honestly, we shouldn't have to wait every ten years for the Betty's and Jane's to come along. Their stories mean too much to girls like me.