Over the AFF Christmas break, I wanted to spend my time in the most efficient way possible. For some, this means finally getting to Christmas shop and relax, but for me it meant re-watching a few episodes from each season of my favorite TV show Ugly Betty for some writing inspiration.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to moderate the panel “A Conversation with America Ferrera” during our 19th Annual Festival. While watching the show, I recalled that crazy Sunday morning in October, trying to hide my nerves and remain professional at the same time. I had my pages of questions prepared, wanting to make sure I got every detail of her biography just right.
This was the ultimate dream come true for me – being not only a huge Betty fan, but also a huge admirer of America Ferrera’s work. I had not gotten the chance to meet Ms. Ferrera in advance like I had the other panelists, so I knew I would have little time to make a first impression. On my way upstairs to the Driskill Mezzanine, I stopped as I realized who was sitting just outside the 1886 Cafe – America herself.
I froze. Flashbacks of crying at the series finale came rushing back, and how I felt inspired to do anything with my life because of how Betty had lived hers. Coming back to reality, I made my way over to introduce myself. I couldn’t believe it – the moment of meeting one of my idols, of meeting Betty Suarez herself, was coming true.
After a few minutes of chatting though, and seeing how quiet and calm she is, I realized something very important: I wasn’t talking to Betty Suarez; I was simply talking to the woman who played her.
Don’t get me wrong – America was absolutely stunning, and I learned how passionate she is not only about acting, but about a powerful story as well. She constantly develops with every role she plays, and continues to impress with her breadth of work both in acting and producing. It will always be one of those rare, defining moments in my life.
After that day though, I made an important discovery – the monumental influence our favorite characters and stories have on our outlook on life. The character of Betty Suarez was a guiding light for me: she taught me how to keep my head above water, to move through uncertainty and, most of all, to always keep a positive outlook on life. It wasn’t the person playing Betty who inspired me, but the story of her life and all of the relatable experiences that she and I shared.
I used to solely admire Ms. Ferrera for her portrayal of Betty. But after the Festival, I realized how much I also admired her love of story and passion to play such a compelling character. I realized how grateful I am to the creator and writers on the show, for always finding a consistent beat that resonated with me and millions of other people during its 4-season run. It’s amazing how a piece of work can seem like it was written just for you.
I’m so excited for what the 20th Anniversary will bring this year, and I hope that our registrants will also get to meet the characters that inspired them. Happy Writing!
— Marcie Mayhorn, Office Manager