Literally: "I'm Betty, The Ugly One" (1999-2001). The most famous Hispanic Soap Opera in the world, a Dramedy that also subverts the paradigm of the beautiful heroine by instead starring an ugly one. In Hispanic countries, everybody and their cat has watched it (the Mexican adaptation's finale was actually a real parade!).
Beatriz "Betty" Pinzón is a very intelligent woman in her late twenties, has a degree in Economics and a master in Finance, perfectly trilingual, and is extremely clever. She also is extremely unattractive, with any possible redeeming feature hidden under her unflattering clothes, her bad hair, her orthodontic treatment, her big nerdy glasses and her cringe-worthy laugh. Since she has been considered ugly since her birth, she has very little confidence in herself, and her parents being very overprotective doesn't help her with this at all. Her only friend is Nicolás Mora, a fellow neighbour and classmate, who is as unattractive and nerdy as she is.
Unable to find a job at the same level as her knowledge because her incredible resume is hidden by the photo attached to it, Betty lowers her expectations and applies to a secretarial job in a fashion company, Eco Moda, since they are the only company that doesn't require a photo. The Human Resources man instead hires Patricia Fernández, a very attractive lady; however, Patricia is the best friend of Marcela Valencia, the fiancée of the new president of the company, Armando Mendoza, and, suspecting that his very jealous fiancée wants to spy on him - and since he needs a competent aid - he hires Betty as well. After all, Patricia is a total airhead, and Betty has the plus of being unattractive. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Well, for a start, Betty falls in love with her boss.
Mind, Betty knows that her "Don Armando" will never notice anyone like her, and so she decides to instead demonstrate her love by being the best secretary possible, even if that means clashing with Patricia (who likes to think of herself as much more important than she is), with Marcela (who works in the company too, and knows Armando's personality too well), with the head designer Hugo Lombardi (a Flamboyant Gay who disliked Betty since Day One due to his very rigid concept of beauty), with Daniel Valencia (Marcela's brother, investor, and The Rival of Armando since childhood), and in general with... pretty much everyone. She endures a lot of mistreatment, including being shunted off to a closet as her office. Unexpectedly, she finds support and friendship in the secretaries of the company, dubbed "el cuartel de feas" (the Ugly Squad) by Lombardi.
Armando begins to trust more and more in Betty, who little by little influences in the policies of the company. To him, she is the hideous but trustworthy secretary, who also happens to know a lot of Economics. However Armando's very ambitious plans for the company begin to fall apart when the first collection of clothing produced under his administration fails badly, with the logical loss of money. Afraid of losing his position, his parent's trust and the company (in that order), he and Betty create a plan involving a takeover by a ghost company, and tax evasion. Then Armando's best friend and company vice-president Mario Calderón suggest to him that he should ensure Betty's loyalty by romancing her...
This show contains examples of:
- Beautiful All Along: Betty is not really ugly, but she is unkempt, with braces, glasses that obscure her face and unfavorable dresses. When she gets a makeover, all she needs to do is cut her front bangs and get smaller glasses.
- Because You Were Nice to Me: Betty wasn't interested in Armando until the moment he touched her chin and said you are the kind of woman I need.
- Betty and Veronica: As a classic Telenovela, this show loves this trope. The love triangle between Betty, Armando and Marcela is the most prominent example but is also very interesting. By Bettys point of view she is obviously the Betty (Sweet, shy and not quite attractive as the stunning Marcela) while Marcela is more of The Vamp, more outspoken and jealous, putting her into Veronica's territory, however from Marcela's perspective, she is Betty, as she knew Armando from early childhood and has supported him from the begining, contrasting with Betty who is a new comer, exotic and different. Betty later becomes the Archie to Armando's Veronica and Michel's Betty. Let's not forget that Armando was the center of another triangle, or more like a square, between Marcela's Veronica and her two Bettys, Betty and Alejandra. The resolution made Armando stay with Betty.
- Also there's Efrain's Archie to Sofia's Betty and Jenny's Veronica, Sofia loses.
- The Brainless Beauty: Patricia Fernandez and Aura María, among others.
- Breakfast Club: The secretaries of the company, dubbed "The Ugly Squad" by Hugo Lombardi, because none of them have perfect, supermodel looks. Besides Betty, they are an elderly lady, an angry Woman Scorned in her forties, an angrier Christmas Cake over 6 feet tall, a dark skinned woman who likes to play tarot, the attractive but short (and ditzy) company receptionist, and the fat Big Eater gossiper who, ironically, is the only happily married one, and the best adjusted of all the group.
- Broken Aesop: Some argue that Betty's transformation takes away from the overall idea of not judging others by their appearance.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: A good chunk of the cast. They are all comedic in some way (Sandra is violent, Bertha overeats and gossips, etc.), but most are very competent at their jobs.
- The Cameo, Special Guest and Celebrity Star: Oh, boy. There was a lot people who appeared at this soap at some point, including several singers, the actress who starred Brazilian soap Xica da Silva, and at one point every single one of the candidates of the Miss Colombia beauty pageant of that year, and the President of Colombia (The latter two were justified, since the storyline involved Betty in the preproduction of the pageant, and the President, who happened to be in the city of the pageant, wanted to appear in the soap. Both things became plot points).
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Subverted. Many times, Betty and her friends scheme and get in no trouble, while other times there are huge consequences for their pranks against Patricia or their gossiping.
- Casanova Wannabe: Freddy and Nicolás. The latter acknowledges his lack of physical attractiveness, but both fail to understand that their attitude is the real cause of them being still single.
- Catch-Phrase: Patricia's "Yo estudié seis semestres de Finanzas en la San Marino" ("I studied six semesters of Finance in San Marino College"). The joke is that the college she mentions so proudly is a Fictional Counterpart of a third rate university, and for the timeframe mentioned she only went to catch a husband.
- "El diablo es puerco" (The Devil is a Pig), a phrase always spoken by Betty's father, Don Hermes. Particular because it hits the nail while really saying nonsense.
- Towards the end of the telenovela's run, Patricia starts calling anyone who even slightly inconveniences her "Desgrrrraciado" (rolling her R's more and more as the phrase became popular with audiences). It even ends up becoming her last line in her final episode.
- Celebrity Paradox: in one chapter Mario Duarte, the actor who interpreted Nicolás Mora, appeared as himself in his role as a singer, and even meets his character (albeit they aren't shown at screen at the same time). Nicolás later comments in how some people think they look "a bit" alike, and then wonders loudly why Mr. Duarte is considered more handsome than him, and why anyone enjoys his music, even though in an earlier episode, Nicolás was listening to it.
- Central Theme: Self-love, especially when it comes to women. Betty and her friends all try to find validation in relationships with rich or handsome men, but sometimes forgo their own dignity to get them, leading to them being betrayed, used or unhappy. Marcela and Patricia are no different, with the former overlooking Armando's infidelities so long as he comes back to her eventually, and the latter giving up her own well-being and dignity for appeareances and a well-off husband. Catalina Angel and many guest star models also tell Betty constantly that being ugly is not her problem, it's not loving herself enough to not let others hurt her when they call her ugly or, even worse, lie to her and call her beautiful for an ulterior motive.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Marcela, albeit she has reasons... and eventually is proven right.
- Cosmetic Catastrophe: Betty's first makeover. aside from the bad choices in hair and outfit, she adds badly applied lipstick and mascara in an attempt to appear more attractive to Armando.
- Cultural Translation: Ugly Betty. It is, however, popular here, and there are many multinational re-makes.
- Flamboyant Gay: Hugo Lombardi. Luigi Lombardi from the Mexican version La fea más bella is an even more blatant example, especially because Flamboyant Gays in Mexico usually assume Italian names.
- Gang of Bullies: the youths in Betty's street, constantly picking on her.
- Generation Xerox: The last episode ends with a scene very similar to the first scene of the opening...
- Gold Digger: Patricia. Also, most women on the show seem obsessed with finding a wealthy man to marry.
- Huge Schoolgirl: The tallest secretary of the "Ugly Squad", Sandra Patiño, is what happens with this type of character once they leave the school, but retain the complex.
- I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: Betty is aware of her appeareance and how men see her, so she's surprised when Armando, a powerful and rich man, says he's crazy about her.
- Informed Deformity: The majority of the members of "The Ugly Squad":
- Mariana is actually an attractive woman, whose only "flaw" is being black.
- The actress who plays Sandra was actually a model. She just happened to wear glasses and somewhat unfavorable clothes.
- Aura María is, by almost every measure, an incredibly beautiful woman who has no trouble hooking up with whoever she wants.
- I Just Want to Be Beautiful: Betty, of course. Not out of shallowness, but because of her experiences: people are judged and treated according to their looks.
- Love Dodecahedron: As is usual for a telenovela. Betty, Marcela and quite a few models are in love with Armando, who loves no one but is engaged to Marcela, and eventually comes to love Betty. Michell loves Betty, who is just fond of him. Nicolás loves Patricia, but has to pretend to be Betty's boyfriend to keep her feelings for Armando a secret, and Patricia loves anyone rich enough to pay off all her debts and buy her expensive things.
- Meaningful Name: several.
- Mentor: Catalina Angel, who works on public relations and takes Betty under her wing after she quits Ecomoda.
- Meganekko: Betty's makeover transforms her into this archetype.
- Men Are Strong, Women Are Pretty: However hard-working and resourceful Betty is, she simply can't be competent enough to make the others appreciate her actions without obsessing about her looks with at least as much emphasis.
- Multi-National Shows
- Naïve Everygirl
- The '90s: Armando and Mario even make a Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky joke in one episode.
- One Steve Limit: Averted. There's Beatriz Pinzón, our protagonist, and María Beatriz Valencia, Marcela and Daniel's dimwitted sister.
- Only Sane Employee: Betty has traces of this, and this was inherited (and expanded) by later incarnations.
- Opening Theme: A cover of an old Milonga, "Se Dice de mí" specially modified to suit the gender of the protagonist
- Overprotective Dad: Hermes Pinzón, Betty's father. He seems to notice all the awkwardness and ugliness of his daughter, but still insists on advising her against men with "bad intentions" and drives away any prospective son-in-law. Given what happened the one time his daughter did had a boyfriend, you couldn't blame him. This trope, howver, overlaps with...
- Pet Homosexual: Inverted; the homosexual designer has traits of this type, but he is too moody to be anyone's mascot, and instead treats his elderly seamstress as his pet.
- Platonic Life-Partners: Betty and Nicolás.
- Playing Cyrano: Mario Calderón, for Armando. Subverted because none of them are interested in Betty (at least in the beginning).
- Princess in Rags: Patricia. After her divorce, she falls in status, but instead of that humbling her down, she acts as the Alpha Bitch she always has been, clinging passionately to all the symbols of her former status. Of course, the soap has a particular delight on smacking her with reality. One episode has her trying to keep people of realizing that she is not wearing pantyhose, because she doesn't have money to buy replacements; another has her having to use public transportation for the first time on her life, after her car was collected by the bank.
- Revenge of the Nerd: ¡Y cómo! After Betty finds out about Mario and Armando's plan to seduce her to keep Ecomoda safe, she starts playing mind games with both of them, as she has the company and they have to play nice with her, all without realizing they've been discovered.
- Romantic False Lead: Michell, who falls for Betty while she was working for Catalina Angel, and eventually follows her to Ecomoda.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: She does. Betty's apeareance significantly improves towards the end of the soap opera.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Patricia (¡y cómo!). Prides on her beauty, her (brief) time studying finance in a (third rate) university, and her rich ancestor. The truth? She is a vain, shallow and egotistical empty-head, whose time in college was only to find a husband (who quickly got rid of her when he realized what she was like), and whose own family wants nothing with her. Nobody denies she is pretty, but anyone else in Eco Moda is nicer than her - even the Woman Scorned, even the Jerkasses. She tries to live the same way as she did when she was maintained, and that only hastens her fall. She frustrates Marcela, her only friend, by gleefully ignoring every bit of advice the poor woman gives to her. The only person who actually likes her is Nicolás, who is so charmed by her beauty that ignores every clue he is given about her real personality.
- Spin-Off: Ecomoda, which only lasted a month.
- Spinoff Babies: The atrocious Animated Adaptation Betty Toons.
- Stepford Smiler: After discovering Armando's plan, Betty adots this during her interactions with him, assuring him that everything's fine. Her whole demeanor says otherwise, however.
- Stupid Boss: Gutiérrez, who sprouts Gratuitous English all the time, is easily distracted by any good looking female (but treating the non-good looking ones worse than nasty), and is only competent enough to avoid being a Pointy-Haired Boss by a pinch.
- Tyrant Takes the Helm: Daniel Valencia.
- Unlucky Childhood Friend: Marcela. See Small Name, Big Ego (which she is definitely not).
- Upper-Class Twit:
- Patricia, even if she has no money, still brings her uselessness with her.
- Maria Beatriz, who only appears long enough to collect her cheque and go back to Europe for another plastic surgery procedure.
- Virginity Makes You Stupid: Subverted. Betty is not a virgin, but she's very inexperienced and innocent. It's not until she discovers Armando's plan to seduce her that she gets a more cynical look at the world and really starts acting more adult-like.
- Yawn and Reach: Nicolás tries this, but fails almost every time.
- Your Cheating Heart: Armando is very unfaithful towards Marcela, and the main plot kicks off when he tries to seduce Betty to keep her loyal to him while he's still engaged to Marcela.