A block party in Jackson Heights on Thursday, July 17 welcomed back one of Queens’ most popular families while also celebrating efforts being made to promote diversity in the city’s entertainment industry.
The hit ABC show “Ugly Betty” announced earlier in the summer that it would be relocated from California to Queens for filming, in part because of a tax incentive offered to film in the city. The show’s main character, Betty Suarez, played by America Ferrera, works at a fashion magazine in Manhattan and lives in Jackson Heights.
Liz Lugo, who lives down the block from the fictional Suarez home, said that she has been a fan of the show “since day one.”
“It’s good for the neighborhood because you never see Queens,” Lugo said. “You always see Manhattan or Long Island. It’s about time Queens starts being on TV.”
Ferrera and cast mates Ana Ortiz, Mark Indelicato and Tony Plana, who played the rest of the Suarez family, were all in attendance during the block party. Plana said that it felt great to be back to where the pilot had been filmed and said that they are proud that “Ugly Betty” has become such a successful Latino-based show.
“But, most of all, we’re proud of representing a Latino family in such a positive and multi-dimensional way,” Plana said.
Francois Guerrier, whose family has lived in the Jackson Heights house that has become the Suarez home since 1969, watches the show and said that he thinks it is very humorous. He also said that it is good because “Ugly Betty” shows the diversity of Queens.
During the block party, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Lieber, Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis Walcott, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn spoke about some of the steps being taken to promote the industry through initiatives from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Task Force on Diversity in Film, Television and Commercial Production.
The first initiative, the “Made in NY” Mentorship Program, will be developed and operated by the Independent Feature Project (IFP). While increasing the access city residents have to the industry specifically through mentors, it will also “promote the recruitment of persons of color, women, veterans and economically disadvantaged New Yorkers to the film and television industry.”
The city has also issued a request for proposals in order to develop a Production Training Program. Some of the other programs include “Education - Blueprint on Film, Video and New Media,” the Workforce Diversity Initiative, career panels and a CUNY career fair.
“It is an honor to host the production of shows, like ‘Ugly Betty,’ that are based on life in New York City,” Walcott said. “Many New Yorkers possess the passion and skills to work in this industry, seeking greater access to hone their talents. I’d like to thank the participants of the task force who worked diligently to ensure that the same diversity represented at all levels on this set can be standard on other productions throughout New York City.”
Ferrera, who grew up in California and was nominated for an Emmy for her role as Betty Suarez the morning of the press conference, encouraged people to take advantage of the initiatives being offered.
“I only got where I am today by taking advantage of every single opportunity that was put in front of me and those opportunities don’t mean anything unless you take hold of them,” she said.

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