America Ferrera delivered a powerful speech about the importance of representation when she received the SeeHer Award at the 2024 Critics Choice Awards on Sunday (14.01.24).
The 39-year-old actress admitted the accolade - which honours women who advocate for gender equality and portray authentic, boundary-pushing characters - "couldn't be more meaningful" to her because of her roots and reflected on the fact that she grew up in a time when it seemed "impossible" there would be so many strong Latina characters shown on screen.
She told the audience at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica: "I grew up as a first generation Honduran-American girl in love with TV, film and theater, who desperately wanted to be a part of a storytelling legacy that I could not see myself reflected in.
"Of course, I could feel myself in characters who were strong and complex, but these characters rarely, if ever, looked like me.
"I yearned to see people like myself on screen as full humans. When I started working over 20 years ago, that seems impossible, I know. It seemed impossible that anyone could make a career of portraying fully dimensional Latina characters.
"But because of writers, directors, producers and executives who were daring enough to rewrite outdated stories and challenge deeply entrenched biases, I and some of my Latina colleagues, have been supremely blessed to bring to life some fierce and fantastic women."
The former 'Ugly Betty' star hailed the younger generation of Latina actresses which she hopes to have inspired, including Ariana Greenblatt, who played her daughter in 'Barbie', Jenna Ortega, and Selena Gomez.
She then commended efforts to widen representation and diversity, which mean young women can now see themselves reflected on screen, hailing the progress as "the best and highest usage of story telling."
She added: "To affirm one another's full humanity. To uphold the truth that we are all worthy of being seen.
"Black, brown, indigenous, Asian, trans, disabled, any body-type, and any gender -- we are all worthy of having our lives richly and authentically reflected."
America went on to praise her 'Barbie' co-star Margot Robbie for her work on the film, director Greta Gerwig for championing women and also the men involved with the blockbuster.
She said: "Thank you [Greta] for proving through your incredible mastery as a filmmaker that women's stories have no difficulty achieving cinematic greatness and box office history at the same time. And that unabashedly telling female stories does not diminish your powers, it expands them.
"Thank you to our Kens, Noah Baumbach... [and] Ryan Gosling for all being man enough to support women's work, you are all brilliant and you are all 'Kenough,' "
The 'Superstore' actress added a shout-out to her husband, Ryan Piers Williams, who has a cameo in 'Barbie'.
She told him: "You see me and my dreams and you believe and support them as if they were your own, I love you."
Margot had presented the award to her 'Barbie' co-star, and highlighted America's distinction as the "first and only" Latina to win the Lead Actress in a Comedy Emmy for her work on 'Ugly Betty'.
She said: "I imagine being the first in any field can be isolating. I imagine it puts an enormous pressure on you to be perfect, to play it safe.
"But what I admire the most about America is how she has handled that pressure while never being afraid to continue to speak the truth when it counts the most."