When I heard that Ugly Betty may have a two hour special/revival on Hulu, I got all warm and fuzzy inside. The show is one of my favorites for so many reasons. It’s smart and funny, but most importantly it showed me that I could work in magazines. From the very beginning, Betty was ridiculed and singled out by her colleagues. She dressed differently. She acted differently. Besides Wilhelmina Slater, Betty was the only woman of color in the office. Yet despite the circumstances, she managed to thrive as an assistant at MODE magazine. I thought to myself, "She's Latina. I'm Latina. If she could do it, I can do it."
From a very young age, I knew I wanted to write stories. In the second grade, I created a whole series of picture books about a character named Candy Fitcher who was really cool and beat all the boys at soccer. As I grew older, I started collecting magazines and decided I wanted to study journalism. I had them all: Seventeen, Marie Claire, Glamour, NYLON. When I grow up, I want to be a writer . . . That was my mentality until that little voice inside my head grew insecure and decided that my dreams weren't possible.
Why is representation important? Because it’s intimidating, discouraging
even, when you're flipping through a magazine and cannot identify with a single story or writer. It was important for me to know that someone who looked like me and thought like me could work at a magazine.
For a while, I began to think, Maybe people like me don’t get to share their stories. I wondered, If I keep being me, will I ever get a byline? I had rarely seen a Rodriguez, Martinez, or any other Latino names in print.
I'm not the only one who's noticed the lack of diversity in newsrooms. There’s numbers to back up the claim. For example, in 2015, minorities accounted for only 27.3 percent of interns within news organizations, according to a census conducted by the American Society of News Editors.
Internships are really important, especially in the communications industry, because they help to get your foot in the door. Daniel, another character on Ugly Betty, proved that connections can get you far as well. His father owned Meade Publications, and so naturally, Daniel was appointed as editor in chief of Mode. Mind you, Daniel had no prior experience.
After I landed my first internship at Cosmo for Latinas, people kept asking me, "How did you get it? Who do you know?" But I didn't know anyone — I was the first in my family to pursue the communications industry. Everyone else was in business or engineering. It is great to build a network within the industry, but it felt amazing knowing that I had been given the position because the editors believed in me and my skills.
That's one of the reasons why Betty is so relatable. She started from square one, just like me. She didn't know anyone in the industry. All she had was passion and a strong work ethic.
episode of the entire show took place in Season 3, when Betty created the mock-up of B Magazine. Inspired by her Latino culture, family, and values, she found a way to represent herself but also encourage other young girls to embrace their identities.
After watching that episode, my mentality definitely changed. I realized just how much I can bring to the table. Yes, I may be the minority, but that just makes it all the more important that I keep writing. There's no one else who can share my stories and experiences. As I experience life, I make the conscious decision to make note of my unique perspective. It’s that perspective that will help shape the stories I write, the stories that may one day inspire another Latina to write or work in magazines.
However, I do recognize that things are getting better, and Latinos, across multiple media platforms, are gaining more representation. (Shout-out to Gina Rodriguez!) Whenever I get down on myself or start to resort to self-pity, I think of the Latinas who have already helped pave the way, like Ella Cerón from Teen Vogue and Michelle Mulligan, the founding editor in chief of Cosmo for Latinas. Reading and hearing about their struggles with identity and their journeys to self-acceptance has inspired me, just as Betty has.
I know that my experience won't resonate with every single Latina out there, but that’s okay. It’s not my job to speak on behalf of an entire community. Although it’s often
expected of me, it’s an impossible task, and that’s why we need more! We need
more writers, more editors, and more stories that resonate with those who don’t
have the opportunity or ability to share their voices. Things are getting
better. I can feel it, and I can see it on magazines and websites, but I think
there’s still a long way to go. For now, as one of my favorite editors put
it, I’ll “keep on keeping on.”