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Betty Suarez (America Ferrera)A young woman trying to make it on her own, Betty Suarez is the main protagonist of the show. She lives in Queens with her widowed father Ignacio, older sister Hilda and nephew Justin, and works as an assistant to the Editor In Chief at Mode Magazine. She quickly learns working at Mode will test the very fibers of her character, yet she remains resilient and excited in spite of all the conspiracies, drama and heartbreak she suffers. She hopes to be a journalist someday and will often take the chance to pursue her ambition. A role model for all girls everywhere in the view of the show's writers, she's liable to both give and receive Aesops. By the way, she's not so much ugly as she has a really bad/strange fashion sense.Associated tropes:
- Animal Motifs: Butterflies, symbolic of Betty's own metamorphoses.
- Break the Cutie: So many attempts are made to do this over the show, Betty pushes through all of them. Notably the pilot.
- Dude Magnet: She's had several men trying to win her affections over the course of the series, including her boss.
- Hollywood Dateless: Quite a lot of love triangles for one so "ugly".
- I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: Subverted. Betty doesn't have a crush on Daniel like in the other versions of the show, and in the end it's he that develops feelings first.
- Missing Mom: Betty's mother died pre-series.
- Nice Girl: So very much.
- Only Sane Employee: Betty is this by miles when she first joins Mode.
- Plucky Office Girl
- The Pollyanna: No matter what gets thrown her way, Betty faces it with a smile.
- Rummage Sale Reject/Impossibly Tacky Clothes: A lot of Betty's clothes from the first few seasons.
- Spicy Latina: Averted. Though there are moments where she reminds Marc that she's from Queens and will hit him.
- Team Mom: Betty consistently attempts to be this to pretty much everybody around her.
Daniel Meade (Eric Mabius)Betty's somewhat incompetent boss, though he does try sometimes. The Unfavorite of the Meade family (which owns the company) he often spends his days Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, leaving a trail of broken hearts behind him wherever he goes, his own included. He and Betty tend to take turns being each other's rock and evolve from simple boss/assistant relationship into close friends. In the show's finale the relationship was left open-ended, though various hints throughout the episode possibly imply that they Hooked Up Afterwards, the most obvious being that Daniel decides to stay in London for no discernible reason other than that Betty happens to be there. It remains unclear, however, if Betty feels the same way, though she does smile at his arrivalAssociated tropes:
- Beard of Sorrow: Daniel grows this several times over the run of the show.
- Character Tic: Has tendency to smile while giving a thumbs up when lying.
- Cool Uncle: To DJ.
- Cynicism Catalyst: His brother's death weighs heavily on his mind.
- Good Feels Good: Takes someone else taking the credit for his "Normal People" modelling show in stride. Even comments how good it feels.
- Hero with an F in Good: Many attempts to do right either go unnoticed or end up failing.
- Hidden Depths: At first comes off as a party animal but as the series progresses he shows tremendous character development.
- Honest Corporate Executive
- I Am Not My Father
- Innocent Blue Eyes
- Ivy League for Everyone: Daniel is an alumnus of Harvard.
- Lady Killer In Love: Once a season!
- Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Poor Daniel always goes after the pretty ones, who more often than not, screw him over.
- Averted slightly with Molly. She's pretty, but he loves her beyond that, and they had a real connection.
- Love Epiphany: In "The Past Presents the Future".
- Luke, You Are My Father: A French boy called DJ (Daniel Jr) shows up claiming to be Daniel's son. Subverted in that he's actually Daniel's nephew.
- Millionaire Playboy: Especially at the start of the show.
- Nice Guy
- Nice to the Waiter
- Really Gets Around
- Real Men Wear Pink: Daniel sure does wear a lot of purple for a straight man. Who works in fashion, admittedly.
- Sharp Dressed Man
- The Unfavourite: Is often compared to his older sister Alex.
- Upper-Class Twit: At the start of the series, at least.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: His relationship with his father is messy at best.
Wilhelmina Slater (Vanessa Williams)Head Creative Assistant and daughter of a Senator, she's a woman of quick wit and versatility which she uses for selfish reasons. Her ultimate desire is to run a magazine and attempts to take over Mode Magazine numerous times. One of the most complicated characters, she performs the role of a Card-Carrying Villain yet is not above the occasional Pet the Dog moment. She has an estranged daughter named Nico and is Marc's manager.Associated tropes:
- Big Bad
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing
- But Not Too Black
- Card-Carrying Villain: She and Marc often call their schemes "evil" with complete sincerity.
- The Chessmaster: Always has an elaborate plan at hand to get back into Mode's good books, usually involving Marc and any number of her 'contacts'.
- The Corrupter: As Tyler's AA sponsor, though that didn't work out so well for her.
- And presumably to Marc sometime prior to the pilot. In fact, Wilhelmina seems to consider it her sworn duty to teach anyone who works for her the proper way to scheme and plot.
- Deal with the Devil: Don't make deals with Wilhelmina... just don't.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Wilhelmina does soften slightly throughout the series, especially to Marc, Daniel and sometimes Betty.
- The finale implies she learned her lesson since being nice actually earned her what she wanted.
- The Dragon: Early On. Also during her life as Wanda, Fey Sommers' assistant.
- Faux Affably Evil
- Heel–Face Revolving Door
- Heel–Face Turn / Heel Realization: In the finale, especially after Marc chews her out.
- Icy Blue Eyes
- It's All About Me: She really wants the magazine to succeed. As long as she runs it, of course.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold
- Manipulative Bitch
- Must Make Amends: When she protects Claire from Tyler at the end of the penultimate episode.
- Naked in Mink
- Not So Different: To Betty, of all people. She used to be Wanda, Fey Sommers "mousy" assistant before Fey decided to turn her into a supermodel.
- Kick the Dog: Wilhelmina does this almost every episode.
- Pet the Dog: Rare in earlier seasons, but quite often in Season Four. Usually to Marc, Daniel or even Betty. In the finale, she even admits that she will miss Betty.
- Rich Bitch: Rich, check. Bitch, oh so check. LampshadedClaire: You may wanna rethink your wardrobre, Wilhemina. Gonna have a little trouble convincing them you need money wearing mink.Wilhemina: It's not mink, darling, it's chinchilla!Claire: Well, whatever it is you look like a Rich Bitch!
- Taking the Bullet: An unusual example; she didn't really intend to take the bullet from Tyler for Claire (in fact, Tyler accidentally fired the gun), but she did save her life . She gets better.
- The Vamp
- Villain Decay: While still a danger at times, her backstabbing and scheming wanes significantly as the series goes on. She undergoes the Heel–Face Revolving Door several times per season due to personal hangups, familial conflicts and the old "my career" vs "my soul" conflict.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Zig-zagged in that whenever it seems things couldn't go wrong they do.
- Visionary Villain: She really, really cares for and loves MODE and will do anything to have a permanent share of it. As of Season Four, she has succeeded and has an equal 50% control with Daniel. At the end of the series, she has complete control, but not by treacherous means.
- Woman in White: A lot of her iconic outfits are purely white.
Marc St. James
Marc St. James (Michael Urie)Wilhelmina's Battle Butler and Camp Gay assistant. Marc takes pleasure at being catty to friends and enemies alike though he too has the occasional Pet the Dog moment.Associated tropes:
- Battle Butler: Not afraid to get his hands dirty to get the job done.
- Camp Gay: Very much so.
- Deadpan Snarker: Marc has this in spades.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Male version - no gay jokes, please.
- Marc becomes quite close to Betty come the end of the series, and even Daniel in his own way.
- Hidden Depths: Who would have thought the snarky, gay assistant, who picks on people's dreams, would want to own a magazine one day?
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Marc really is a nice guy behind his cattiness.
- Morality Pet: To Wilhelmina, especially in the finale.
- Parental Substitute: To Justin, more so as the series goes on (though he still thinks Justin is Betty's son), which eventually got Hilda jealous.
- Pet the Dog: With Amanda, Justin, and occasionally Betty.
- Pet Homosexual: For Amanda.
- Platonic Life Partners: With Amanda.
- The Rival: To Betty.
- Yes-Man: Until about season 3 and 4 where he becomes more vocal about his discontents.
Amanda Tanen (Becki Newton)A Sassy Secretary (technically a receptionist) at MODE who serves as Marc's Fag Hag and tags along with him whenever it involves pranking or demeaning others. Though she's conniving and catty she's not too intelligent (i.e. not knowing what wrath means) and is highly impulsive. Despite this she is not completely bitchy and, like every other main character, has plenty Pet the Dog moments. In more recent episodes, she, Marc and Betty seem to have formed some kind of loose Power Trio.Associated tropes:
- Ambiguously Bi
- Anything That Moves: Amanda has a blatant girl crush on Betty.
- The Brainless Beauty: Not the smartest person you'll ever meet, though she is quite wise when she needs to be.
- Amanda is more of a sensitive genius, often being very emphatic when the situation truly requires it, she's also shown to have some degree of street smarts and is a very competent stylist.
- Big Eater: Mainly when under stress.
- Deadpan Snarker: Not as much as Marc, but it's still there.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: To Betty throughout the series.
- Fag Hag: To Marc.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold
- Lovable Alpha Bitch
- Mr. Muffykins: Halston, her deceased mother's pet dog.
- Pet the Dog: With Marc, and occasionally Betty.
- Platonic Life Partners: With Marc.
- Really Gets Around
- Sassy Secretary: In spades.
- Sexy Secretary
- Stupid Sexy Flanders: There are a lot of implications that she has a bi-curious crush on Betty. She's also had her moments with Wilhelmina and Christina.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Her relationship with Betty has progressed toward this.
Ignacio Suarez (Tony Plana)Betty's fatherly dad. He's an illegal immigrant from Mexico, but not one who was just looking for a better life. No, that would be too boring. Instead, he was on the run after having killed a man (a rather unpleasant man, though, who later turned out to be not-quite-so-dead).Associated tropes:
- Day Time Drama Queen: Ignacio seems to have nothing else to do but hang around watching telenovelas.
- Doting Parent: Almost overwhelmingly so to his girls, to his grandson Justin, and usually to Betty or Hilda's love interests.
- Morality Pet: Somewhat this for both Betty and Hilda.
- Open-Minded Parent
- Papa Wolf
- Supreme Chef
Hilda Suarez (Ana Ortiz)Betty's rather shallow sister with whom she's embroiled in The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry. Hilda may or may not be Miss Yo-Yo Knickers, but she at least dresses like her.Associated tropes:
- All Girls Want Bad Boys
- Animal Motifs: Hilda tends to wear clothes with animal prints, which add to her Queens woman image.
- Big Sister Instinct
- Chatty Hairdresser: All with that gorgeous accent of hers.
- Cool Big Sis: To Betty.
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Somewhat this with Betty, but they are very close for the most part.
- Mama Bear: Just try hurting Justin, or Betty for that matter.
- Missing Mom: Her and Betty's mother died when they were fairly young.
- Open-Minded Parent
- Sibling Yin-Yang: Hilda is beautiful, somewhat shallow, and not all that smart compared to Betty who might be plainer looking, but is very warm and intelligent.
- Single Mom Stripper: Sort of at one point.
- Spicy Latina
- Really Gets Around: It's implied that she's this.
- Teen Pregnancy: Which resulted in Justin.
Justin Suarez (Mark Indelicato)Hilda's son and therefore Betty's nephew. Justin is Ambiguously Gay for most of the series, but he eventually comes out as The Twink when he hits his teen years. Largely used as a plot device for the Marc character, who serves as a mentor for the kid.Associated tropes:
- Ambiguously Gay: Though he did get a boyfriend near the end of the show.
- Author Avatar
- Disappeared Dad: Who eventually died.
- Elephant in the Living Room: See ambiguously gay, above.
- Performance Artist: Justin is quite the little actor and dancer.
- Tell Me About My Father: Wants to know his real father.
- The Twink: Starting in season 4.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: After his father died, he temporarily tried to become a beer-drinking girl-chasing basketball player in his memory.
Claire Meade (Judith Light)Daniel and Alexis' mother. Originally introduced as Lady Drunk, she now just wants her family back together and serves as a reluctant mentor for Betty, who often is scared of Claire's cold-blooded side. In the first season, she admitted to murdering Fey Sommers and was sent to Cardboard Prison, which she escaped from, of course. Later on, it was Ret Conned that she hadn't meant to kill Fey, enabling the others to Clear Her Name.Associated tropes:
- The Alcoholic
- Clear My Name: After being accused of killing Fey Sommers.
- Cool Old Lady
- Deadpan Snarker
- Lady Drunk: Is an alcoholic during part of the show.
- Mama Bear
- Morality Pet: For Daniel, Alexis, and Bradford.
- Open-Minded Parent
- Pet the Dog: She's one of the few characters at Mode who's actually nice to Betty.
- Shipper on Deck: Claire shipped Daniel and Betty as early as Season 3.
- Wrongful Accusation Insurance: Possibly justified - the Meades are filthy rich, after all.
Christina Mc Kinney
Christina McKinney (Ashley Jensen)Betty's best friend at work, Christina is a Funny Foreigner from Scotland, which means she drinks a lot and uses all that hilarious Scottish slang. Her purpose on the show was originally being Betty's only friend among the Modies, making her The Artifact from the days when the show was more of a Fish out of Water comedy. As a result, Christina was Out of Focus a lot in later episodes. She was Put on a Bus at the end of the third season, and returned in the third-to-last episode when Betty, Hilda, and Amanda visited London.Associated tropes:
- The Artifact: Christina doesn't really fit into the show during her last few episodes. Granted Betty doesn't either, but she has more reason for being there.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Funny Foreigner: Christina is often mocked for being Scottish, but is also a humorous character herself.
- Only Sane Employee
- Out of Focus: At some points, Christina only existed to pop up and give Betty advice.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Christina was originally written as an American and was only made Scottish after Jensen was cast.
- Scotland: Has that gorgeous accent.
Alex/Alexis Meade (Rebecca Romijn)Formerly Daniel's transsexual brother and now his sister. She was The Woman Behind The Woman in early episodes, but then had a Heel–Face Turn, leaving Wilhelmina to pick up the evil slack. Alexis is not very consistently written and as a result her personality seems to repeatedly switch between "loving sibling with a competitive streak" and "evil bitch". Put on a Bus at the start of the third season. Not seen after that, but occasionally mentioned.Associated tropes:
- Aloof Big Sister: Though she does warm up.
- Bi the Way: Married to a woman befire coming out and gets a boyfriend afterwards.
- Depending on the Writer: Alexis could either be a total bitch, or genuinely nice.
- Heel–Face Turn: She does this a few times.
- The Man Behind the Man: For the first half of season one, Wilhelmina appeared to be working for her.
- Man, I Feel Like a Woman: Alexis used to be Alex.
- Actually made into a plot point. Alexis gets hit with amnesia, making her forget that she underwent her transition and that for all she knows, she's still Alex but suddenly put in a female body. While the amnesia lasts, she reverts back to her previous male personality: her speech patterns are rougher and more masculine, she goes to the men's room, and she overdoes her make-up (although she becomes better over time).
- No Doubt The Years Have Changed Me: Well she started off male, and came back female.
- Old Friend, New Gender: Obviously with her sex change.
- Put on a Bus: Eventually left the show with her son, DJ.
- Tomboyish Name
- Transsexual: A fairly good representation of one.
Bradford Meade (Alan Dale)Daniel and Alexis' dad who died in the second season. He was the one who hired Betty in the first place, under the twisted logic that since Betty was ugly, his son would not have sex with her and actually get work done.Associated tropes:
Fey Sommers (Christine Jones/Becki Newton)A Posthumous Character who died shortly before the pilot. Bradford was having an affair with her, but Claire found out and murdered her - or at least that was the story until it turned out it wasn't Claire's fault. At the end of the first season, Amanda discovered Fey was her biological mother. After this occurred, Becki Newton, who plays Amanda, started portraying Fey in Flash Backs.Associated tropes:
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Fey Sommers is made to look like Vogue editor Anna Wintour. (Winter... summer, get it?)
- Posthumous Character: Died before the show, is only present in flashbacks.
- Uncanny Family Resemblance: Her daughter is Amanda, and given her actress started to play Fey in flashbacks, they of course look identical.
Standard Betty Boyfriend
Standard Betty BoyfriendThe Standard Betty Boyfriend is a curious specimen. He starts off as a lovably quirky guy, but Sex Changes Everything and he immediately turns into The Obstructive Love Interest if they ever hook up. After the fans become annoyed enough, the writers give Betty a new boyfriend and the Great Cycle Of Love repeats again.
- Walter (Kevin Sussman, early season one) - An entity of pure evil who was was Put on a Bus in shame after fifteen episodes. As he was introduced after he had already reached the obstructive stage, he ended up being The Scrappy. Betty tended to be Mistaken for Cheating by him (even though he expected her to ignore the fact that he cheated on her) and he showed her No Sympathy when her ridiculously convoluted work and home life prevented her from spending time with him. Seriously, what were the writers thinking?
- Henry Grubstick (Christopher Gorham, late season one through season two) - An adorkable nerd and Betty's first real love. At first a breath of fresh air after Walter, but then it turned out he got some other girl pregnant and things went downhill from there. He's had at least four tearful goodbyes with Betty where he was moving back to Tucson "forever", but still proceeds to show up in NYC whenever the writers need some pointless drama.
- Gio Rossi (Freddy Rodriguez, season two to early season three) - Immediately formed a Henry-Betty-Gio Love Triangle when he first appeared on the scene, and the season finale forced Betty to choose between them. She chose neither, and he was Put on a Bus only to make one last appearance in the final season. His main purpose is to criticize Betty and remind her of her original dream. Some consider him a fan-favorite for Betty's love after Henry turned annoying, while others dislike him for being a condescending mansplainer.
- Jesse (Val Emmich, early season three) - You know that sensitive, self-absorbed musician you dated in college? THIS GUY. Fortunately, this didn't get very far.
- Matt (Daniel Eric Gold, late season three to mid season four) - A Lonely Rich Kid with a Corrupt Corporate Executive for a father and a Rich Bitch for a mother. His main character trait was never finishing what he started and constantly changing his life's ambition. He and Betty were getting really serious when Henry inexplicably dropped in for an episode and gave Betty another farewell kiss right when Matt happened to inexplicably be watching from afar. He promptly became her Jerkass boss and attempted to make her life a living hell, before getting back together with her for a few episodes and then deciding to move to Africa. Detty shippers noted the similarities to Daniel and dubbed him "Daniel-lite".
Daniel's Girl Of The Season
Daniel's Girl of the SeasonDespite being a rich playboy, Daniel will fall in love like no one has ever loved before only to have his heart completely mutilated when he finds out her deep, dark secret.
- Sofia (Salma Hayek, season one) - Strong, sexy, career woman who won Daniel's heart by rejecting him. She was the first woman he ever truly loved and he proposed to her after only two months. Turned out to be a publicity stunt for her new article, "Fling to Ring in 60 Days", which she revealed to him on live TV.
- Renee (Gabrielle Union, season two) - Wilhelmina's sister, who found out her evil plans and thus had to be taken out. As she suffered from mental illness, Wilhelmina had Marc mess with her medication, thus making her go crazy with jealousy, attempt to kill Betty, and light Daniel's apartment on fire. In the end she was committed to an asylum, which for some reason meant Daniel could never see her again. She and this storyline were never mentioned again.
- Molly (Sara Lafleur, season three) - Elementary school teacher and the first "normal" girl Daniel was attracted to, who was considered "Betty-lite" by the Detty shippers. Drama came from her being the fiance of his friend and CFO, Connor. After some endless pining and angst, she broke up with Connor, got together with Daniel, and died of cancer.
- Natalie (Jamie-Lynn Sigler, season four) - Manic Pixie Dream Girl helping Daniel get over Molly's death. The support group she brings him into turns out to be an evil cult.
The Mostly Bad Boys Of Hilda
The Mostly Bad Boys of HildaHilda likes dating bad boys, often with disastrous results. Ignacio is so displeased by this.
- Santos Reynoso (Kevin Alejandro, season one) - Knocked Hilda up in High School, resulting in Justin. Starts to make amends in the first season, but dies.
- Coach Tony Diaz (Eddie Cibrian, late season two to early season three) - Justin's gym teacher. Hilda continues to date him after finding out he's married, but don't worry he's leaving his wife. Really, honestly!
- Archie Rodriguez (Ralph Macchio, season three to season four) - A city councilman and the lone respectable guy in Hilda's dating history. Yes, the most respectable guy she's dated is a politician.
- Bobby Talercio (Adam Rodriguez, season four) - An old flame who got Hilda pregnant while she was supposed to be dating Archie. It later turned out the pregnancy failed, but nevertheless Hilda ended up marrying Bobby in the Grand Finale. Well, actually the second-to-last episode, but close enough.
Other Characters' Love Interests
Other Characters' Love Interests
- Cliff St. Paul (David Blue) - A Straight Gay boyfriend of Marc, who encourages him to Pet the Dog. Left Marc when he changed his name to Eli Wallace and moved to another galaxy.
- Connor Owens (Grant Bowler) - Happily Engaged to Molly (see above) when he first appeared, but the show's soapy antics fixed that soon enough. When Daniel went for Molly, Wilhelmina went for Connor. Later he robbed the company and went on the run, causing Wilhelmina to angst about whether to join him or to try to save the company. Ultimately ends up in prison.
- Austin (Ryan McGinnis) - Supposedly in a Love Triangle with Justin over a girl named Lily, but, of course, it turned out they were actually gay for each other the whole time.