America Ferrera rose to fame as “Ugly Betty” of the small screen through the show which questioned the parameters used to define beauty. The Golden Globe and Emmy Award winning actress says she doesn’t feel burdened by the pressure of being looked upon as an inspirational figure, and finds it “empowering” to have an opportunity to represent different kinds of people through her work.
“I don’t really feel that pressure (of being a role model). I try not to let it feel like it puts pressure on me. I am proud that the work that I do can be a reflection on someone of what they or how they want to see themselves represented (on screen),” Ferrera told in an exclusive interview over phone from Los Angeles.
“I find it very empowering that I have the opportunity to get to represent different kinds of people,” she added.
Born to Honduran parents, Ferrera grew up in Los Angeles as the youngest in the family of six. She made her big screen debut at the age of 17 with “Real Women Have Curves” in 2002, and got into national spotlight for her powerful performance.
She is known for projects like “Touched by an Angel”, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”, “Our Family Wedding”, “The Good Wife” and “How to Train Your Dragon 2”. But she won hearts as a simpleton Betty Suarez in “Ugly Betty”, which ran from 2006 to 2010. She is currently busy with TV show “Superstore”, which airs in India on Comedy Central.
The actress, who got married to actor Ryan Piers Williams in 2011, launched her own production company Take Fountain Productions in 2015. She navigates her role as actor, producer and director with ease.
Ferrera is using her star power to support issues that need attention — from opening up about the identity crisis she underwent while growing up, leading the fight for stronger roles for Latino actresses, stressing on the need of diversity in Hollywood and contribution to activism for gender equality and LGBTQ community.
The actress credits her education for opening a window to the bigger world, and igniting compassion in her for other human beings.
“I think with my education I learnt about what was happening in the bigger world, and around me. In college, I studied international relations and felt moved by what is happening in the world,” said Ferrera, who is an international relations major at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
She added: “I just, as a human being, have compassion for what is happening in the world.”
Her show “Superstore” follows the lives of different individuals working in the store. The second season is currently on air. Ferrera says diversity drew her to the project.
“The writer and creator of the show worked the pilot script first well before I was attached with it as an actor and producer. These elements (diversity and human interest issues) definitely made the project exciting to me. It was a unique, funny and grounded representation of real people,” she said.