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If you’ve watched primetime TV or been to a movie theater in the last two decades, you’ve seen (or even heard) America Ferrera. The actor is everywhere: television, film, and even voiceovers for animated work. With all the success she’s experienced, Ferrera hasn’t forgotten where she got her start and how it felt to get her first role – or her first paycheck.

America Ferrara smiling
America Ferrara | Corey Nickols/Getty Images

Riding around in her automobile

Everyone dreams of how they’d spend their money if they got a big payday, and Ferrera got the chance to make her dream come true. Her first role was in the Disney-made-for-TV movie Gotta Kick It Up!

Speaking with Yahoo for their “Money Talks” column, Ferrera said she “could not believe how much money [she] was getting” to do the thing she loves and that she would have paid Disney for the opportunity.

She considers the purchase she made with that first paycheck her first investment. The item in question? A used 2000 Mitsubishi Mirage. Ferrera estimates the cost at $12,000 and said that having the car made her life much easier.

The actor recalls “[having] to ride … three buses to get to an audition” and having to “beg [her] siblings for a ride.” These days she prefers to spend on “experiences … then practical things like my home” instead of cars.

The American dream

Ferrera has made quite a name for herself since her start with Disney. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Ferrera’s current net worth is $16 million. Some of that money comes from film work. Ferrera’s first big-screen role came in Real Women Have Curves.

She expanded her fan base among younger audiences with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants franchise, where she co-starred with Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, and Blake Lively.

Ferrera has also played award-winning television roles. Her first starring role on television came as Betty Suarez, the title character of the sitcom Ugly Betty. Running for four seasons on ABC, the show was nominated for 19 Emmys, with Ferrera taking home the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 2007.

After the finale of Ugly Betty, Ferrera appeared in smaller TV roles on shows like The Good Wife and even took up voiceover work, providing the voice for Astrid Hofferson in the DreamWorks How to Train Your Dragon franchise, according to IMDb. In 2015, Ferrera returned to a lead role as Amy Sosa in Superstore. The show ended after its sixth season and, despite being well-loved by audiences, did not take home a single award during its run.

Jack of all trades


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Like many of her fellow actors, Ferrera has also ventured behind the camera. TV Guide credits Ferrera with producing and directing episodes of Superstore as well as producing films Towards Darkness and The Dry Land.

She even launched her own production company, Take Fountain Productions, in 2015 with her husband Ryan Piers Williams. Hollywood Reporter shared that the company sold shows to both ABC and its sister channel, Freeform, but neither show made it to pilot. With all these endeavors on her schedule, it’s a wonder she finds time for anything off-screen, but Ferrera is passionate about more than storytelling.

In an Emmys featured column, she says that growing up, she knew she wanted to be an entertainer, but she was “disoriented” by the fact that no one on-screen looked like her. Ferrera is very conscious of how she uses her platform, wanting to “create more opportunity” in entertainment for underrepresented communities. She also works with several organizations whose mission is to empower women, including the Girl Scouts and Time’s Up.