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‘Ugly Betty’ Cast Then and Now: Catch Up With the Beautiful Women of ‘Mode’

In case you’re not bi-lingual, Betty la Fea means, “I am Betty, the Ugly one.” And why, you may wonder, is this important to know? Yo soy Betty, la fea is the original Columbian soap-opera telenovela that has spun off more than a dozen versions, including America’s Ugly Betty. Running from 2006 to 2010, the Ugly Betty cast dealt with storylines revolving around the character of Betty Suarez, a young Mexican American woman who lands a job at elite fashion magazine Mode, despite the fact that her outer appearance lacks any sense of style. Known for her adult braces, unusual wardrobe choices and slight naïveté, Betty is pushed into a different world of high-end fashion publishing.

Season 2 Ugly Betty cast promo shoot, 2007
Ugly Betty season 2 promo shoot, 2007Silent H/Ventanarosa/Reveille Productions/ABC Studios/MoviestillsDB

America Ferrera leads the Ugly Betty cast, taking the 22-year-old Betty on the journey to discover her own inner beauty. Surrounded by tall, lean, young fashion models at Mode, it’s difficult for a less attractive woman to find that beauty. But determined to do so, she forges on in her quest with a positive attitude, wit and charm both at work and at her home in Queens, New York.

America Ferrera as Ugly Betty, 2006
America Ferrera as Ugly Betty, 2006 Silent H/Ventanarosa/Reveille Productions/ABC Studios/MoviestillsDB

Actress Salma Hayek was one of the producing partners of the series that ran for four seasons. She enjoyed being on set so much that she took advantage of her producer role to join the Ugly Betty cast in the role of Sofia Reyes.

The ladies of the Ugly Betty cast then and now

The charming family and work comedy always focused on the wholesomeness of Betty and her unique appearance and independent spirit in the hectic and callous world of Manhattan fashion.

Besides America Ferrera as Betty, the impressive Ugly Betty cast left their mark and went on to other projects. While the male cast was outstanding, it was the ladies of Ugly Betty that helped propel the show into a cult classic.

So, what have the ladies of the Ugly Betty cast been up to lately? We’re glad you asked.

Rebecca Romijn as Alexis Meade in the Ugly Betty cast

Rebecca Romijn from the Ugly Betty cast. Left: 2007; Right: 2023
Rebecca Romijn Left: 2007; Right: 2023Getty

If you were a fan of Ugly Betty, did you fall off your sofa during the epic reveal of what had happened to Daniel Meade’s (Eric Mabius) brother, Alex? **Spoiler alert!** We were led to believe that Alex had died in a skiing accident, but, instead, was alive and well and living as Alexis Meade, as played by Rebecca Romijn.

Afterwards, Rebecca took her gorgeous self and starred in multiple TV series, including The Librarians and Eastwick. Currently she is starring in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and had reprised her original X-Men trilogy role of Mystique in 2011’s X-Men: First Class. Additionally, she voiced the character of Lois Lane in four animated superhero movies.

Ashley Jensen as Christina McKinney in the Ugly Betty cast

Ashley Jensen from the Ugly Betty cast. Left: 2006; Right: 2023
Ashley Jensen Left: 2006; Right: 2023Getty

Christina McKinney was the funny and warm-hearted seamstress and fashion designer at Mode, while also Betty’s work wife and biggest ally for most of the series. Since the show’s end, Scottish actress Ashley Jensen has starred in Accidentally on Purpose, Catastrophe, Love & Marriage and After Life. She is also the star of the U.K. series Agatha Raisin, about a PR guru turned amateur sleuth.

Judith Light as Claire Meade in the Ugly Betty cast

Judith Light from the Ugly Betty cast. Left: 2007; Right: 2023
Judith Light Left: 2007; Right: 2023Getty

Judith Light has had roles on many stages – Broadway, small screen and feature films. The former One Life To Live star has been nominated four times over the decades for her various performances. While Light might always be remembered for her role as Angela Bower on Who’s The Boss?, she’s been on several other shows, among them Law and Order: SVU, Dallas, Doubt, Transparent, and Manhunt.

After the long-running Boss, Light was seen in TV films and a few features such as The Ryan White Story (1989), Stamp of a Killer (1987) and Men Don’t Tell (1993). Additionally, she starred in the Pulitzer Prize winning play Wit, in which she shaved her head for the role of a professor battling ovarian cancer. Light returned to TV in one episode of the quirky Poker Face.

Ugly Betty promo shoot with Judith Light, 2009
Ugly Betty promo shoot with Judith Light, 2009Silent H/Ventanarosa/Reveille Productions/ABC Studios/MoviestillsDB

As part of the Ugly Betty cast, Light played Claire Meade, the alcoholic, murderess, complex mom of Daniel Meade and occasional true owner of Mode magazine. She continually gets wrapped up in all the plotting, scheming and deception that envelops the company.

But it’s not just all working in front of the camera, Light filling her time with advocacy as well. She appeared in Netflix’s Tick,Tick…Boom, which follows the struggling career of playwright Johnathan Larson, and was one of the first to battle stigmas people faced when HIV and AIDS were still misunderstood.

Vanessa Williams as Wilhelmina Slater

Vanessa Williams Left: 2007; Right: 2022
Vanessa Williams Left: 2007; Right: 2022Getty

Wilhelmina Slater was the series’ best adversary and frenemy — the ultimate female boss who was unapologetic and fierce as the Creative Director at Mode magazine. The role also earned Vanessa Williams a Best TV Villain award at the 2007 Teen Choice Awards. The fashionable part was simply meant to be for this former beauty queen, whose status as a power dresser on Ugly Betty followed her over to the final two seasons of Desperate Housewives, where she played Renee Perry.

Desperate Housewives
Vanessa Williams and the cast of Desperate Housewives ©ABC/courtesy

“I’ve been synonymous with style via the roles I’ve been able to play, particularly Wilhelmina Slater, but also red carpets, which I’ve done for 30 years,” she told our sister magazine FIRST for Women. “I always have a great relationship with designers and always had a hand in what I’m dressed in and what needs to be fixed. My mother used to make my clothes growing up, so I know a few things about fashion.”

Williams also starred in the short-lived series 666 Park Ave and Daytime Divas. Besides her on screen presence, Williams continues to sing and incorporates R&B, pop and Broadway influences into her tunes.

(Click through to our sister site for more on Vanessa Williams today and her secrets to looking and feeling great at 60!)

Becki Newton as Amanda Tanen in the Ugly Betty cast

Becki Newton Left: 2007; Right: 2018
Becki Newton Left: 2007; Right: 2018Getty

No matter what was going on, Becki Newton always stole the spotlight as Mode receptionist (and resident gossip queen) Amanda Tanen. Amanda was everyone’s favorite mean girl, the character you wanted to totally dislike, but couldn’t help but like as she plotted alongside others within the company. But ultimately, she went from Betty’s biggest rival to become one of her best friends. With co-star Michael Urie (Mark St. James), Newton co-hosted the official Ugly Betty podcast.

After Betty left the air, Newton went on to co-star in Netflix’s The Lincoln Lawyer series, which has already been picked up for another season. She plays Mickey Haller’s (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) second ex-wife and office manager, who basically runs his chaotic practice in very trendy attire along with her trusty dog. Newton also starred in Love Bites, How I Met Your Mother and Divorce alongside Sarah Jessica Parker. You might recognize her voice in American Dad.

America Ferrera as Betty Suarez

America Ferrera Left: 2006; Right: 2023
America Ferrera Left: 2006; Right: 2023Getty

America Ferrera brought Betty Suarez to life from her collection of bright ponchos to her signature bold shades. Audiences delighted in watching her evolve from a timid editorial assistant to a strong woman who stood up for herself, knew her worth and found success without compromising her values.

The role brought Ferrera both a SAG and Golden Globe award. Following the latter, she was congratulated by House Representative Soliz for “helping to break down stereotypes and provide a role model for young Latinas.” Ferrera acted in other TV and movie projects and then starred as Carmen in the 2005 film The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, only to reprise the role in 2008’s sequel. She also went on to star in the hit comedy series Superstore.

Ugly Betty season 1 promo shoot with American Ferrera, 2006
Ugly Betty promo shoot with American Ferrera, 2006Silent H/Ventanarosa/Reveille Productions/ABC Studios/MoviestillsDB

America Georgina Ferrera was born April 18, 1984 in Los Angeles and, while at a theatre program at Northwestern University, made her feature film debut in Real Women Have Curves. The actress went behind the camera to direct projects such as Gentefied and I AM Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter.

More recently, she has walked the pink carpet to promote her co-starring role as Gloria in the megahit film Barbie. Gloria’s speech in the third act of that film has gone viral. Even Kevin Costner quoted it during the Golden Globe ceremonies.

Ana Ortiz as Hilda Suarez

Ana Ortiz Left: 2006; Right: 2023
Ana Ortiz Left: 2006; Right: 2023Getty

Everyone needs a big sister like Hilda Suarez — or a BFF like Ana Ortiz. Hilda is an outspoken, kind and just a natural to become a fan favorite. Ana Ortiz’s Hilda is an inspiring older sister to Betty – one that most would love to have in their own family. Originally, Ortiz had auditioned for the Betty Suarez role, saying in 2008, “I was super plain. I just put on some glasses and kept my hair kind of flat and layered on the clothing. I just wanted them to remember me so that I could be involved in the future.”

Following Ugly Betty, the actress has stayed very busy, starring in TV series such as Devious Maids, Marry Me and Whiskey Cavalier, while guest-starring on How to Get Away with Murder, Covert Affairs and Superstore in 2019 alongside her Betty co-star, American Ferrera. She also starred in the Hulu show Love, Victor.

Salma Hayek as Sofia Reyes

Salma Hayek Left: 2006; Right: 2023
Salma Hayek Left: 2006; Right: 2023Getty

Salma Hayek’s talent and gorgeous appearance as Sofia Reyes brought a whole new level of panache to the series. Sophia is a master manipulator and does her stuff to rule Daniel Meade’s heart, getting him to propose to her and winning favor with his parents. She’s also Betty’s new boss, though on an assignment from Reyes, Betty finds out that Sophia continues to enjoy the services of an exotic dancer. It is ultimately revealed that Sophia seduced Daniel just to prove the validity of her new book and turns down his proposal. Not many men could bounce back from that.

Salma Hayek knows her way around telenovelas such as the original Ugly Betty. She began her career in Mexico with starring roles in the telenovela Teresa as well as the romantic drama Midag Alley. After coming to America, she established herself in Hollywood with roles in From Dusk til Dawn, Wild, Wild West and Dogma.

Salma Hayek and American Ferrera in Ugly Betty, 2006
Salma Hayek and American Ferrera in Ugly Betty, 2006Silent H/Ventanarosa/Reveille Productions/ABC Studios/MoviestillsDB

Hayek’s portrayal of Frida Kahlo in the biopic Frida, which she also produced, made her the first Mexican actress to be nominated for an Oscar. Later, she turned to producing while starring in action themed movies such as Once Upon A Time in Mexico and Bandidas, achieving even further box office success with comedies such as Grown Ups and its sequel. Hayek took on the role of Ajak in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Eternals, which proved to be her high-grossing live action film.

Salma Hayek in Eternals
Salma Hayek as Ajak in Marvel’s Eternals from 2021©Marvel Entertainment/courtesy

Apllying her strengths to the small screen, Hayek’s directing, producing, and acting work on television has earned her four Emmy Award nominations, one being for Ugly Betty. It’s no wonder that Salma has been singled out as one of Hollywood’s most powerful and influential Latina actresses as well as one of the world’s most beautiful women.

And to think it all began with a telenovela.

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