I still remember how my cheeks burned at the end of my first job interview in Manhattan. I'd spent an hour sharing my dreams with a high-powered media type, thinking it was going brilliantly. Then he announced, "I might hire youif you get that stain out of your dress." I slunk out of his office like a kicked puppy.
That's not unlike what happens on the first episode of Ugly Betty. When Betty shows up at Mode magazine to ask about a job, the H.R. person takes one look at her bushy brows and ugly outfit and tells her every position is filled. But rather than slink away, Betty races after him and, in a gutsy speech, explains why she's qualified.
America Ferrera, 23, is a lot like her character (though the word ugly would never apply). She's spunky, driven and real. A child of Honduran immigrants, she grew up in a mostly Caucasian neighborhood and knows what it's like to be an outsider. High school, she has said, "was about hiding all the things that made me different."
But as she set out to become an actress, America unloaded the Ugly Betty feelings and discovered the power that came from being herself. She's proof that nice can trump mean. And passion will always take you much further than an obscenely priced handbag.
White is the editor in chief of Cosmopolitan. Her next book is Lethally Blond
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