Few aspiring actresses could ever hope to experience the early career success of Ugly Betty starlet America Ferrera. In the scant four years after earning a Sundance Jury Award, an Independent Spirit Award nomination, and a Young Artist Award nomination for her role as a first-generation Mexican-American girl teetering on the cusp of womanhood for Real Women Have Curves, the hardworking actress rose quickly through the ranks to become one of television's brightest young stars.
A Los Angeles native and the youngest of six siblings born to Honduran parents, Ferrera, born April 18, 1984, was raised by her mother in Woodland Hills, CA. Though at first hesitant to pursue a career on camera, the natural-born actress and high school valedictorian displayed an instinctive talent on the stage that seemed to signal she had found her true calling. It was during this time that Ferrera began working as a waitress to fund her classes and pay for headshots, and shortly thereafter she made her screen debut as a cheerleader in the Disney Channel feature Gotta Kick It Up! (2002). Later, while attending summer theater camp at Northwestern University, Ferrera taped an audition for Real Women Have Curves; after six auditions, she was ecstatic to learn that she had been cast as first-generation American Ana Garcia. It was the perfect role for the emerging actress, as she too was among the first of her family to be born in America.
In the following two years, Ferrera appeared in a number of film and television projects while studying International Relations and Theater at the University of Southern California, with high-profile roles in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Lords of Dogtown helping to form a solid foundation for an enduring career. Roles in the addiction drama 3:52 and the working-class drama Steel City were quick to follow, and in 2006 Ferrera became a small-screen sensation with her role as an unattractive secretary working for a popular fashion magazine in ABC's Ugly Betty.
An Americanized remake of the popular Columbian comedy drama Yo Soy Betty, la Fea, Ugly Betty was produced by screen star Salma Hayek and became an immediate hit with viewers. When the Golden Globes were handed out in early 2007, young star Ferrera was visibly thrilled to be bestowed with a Best Actress award for her work on the series. She also won a the Screen Actors Guild Award for Female Actor in a Comedy Series shortly thereafter. That same year, Ferrera would expand her resumé to include the role of producer for the dramatic crime thriller Towards Darkness -- in which she also starred as a girl who shares a sensitive relationship with a young kidnapping victim.
2008 saw Ferrera with a starring role in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, and the actress would voice the role of Astrid in 2010’s animated hit How to Train Your Dragon. The same year, Ferrera appeared in The Dry Land; the film premiered at te Sundance Film Festival in 2010, and won the Filmmaker Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Dallas International Film Festival. Ferrera will co-star alongside Rosario Dawson in Chavez, a biopic depicting the life of labor activist Cesar E. Chavez slated for release in 2013. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi