Award-winning ‘Ugly Betty’ co-creator Silvio Horta dies at 45

Cuban American producer Silvio Horta is credited with breaking ground for Latinos and gay people in Hollywood with the success of "Ugly Betty."
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Award-winning Cuban American producer Silvio Horta, who was acclaimed for creating the hit series “Ugly Betty,” has died. He was 45.

Though he brimmed with talent, Horta had struggled with addiction and depression, his family said. He was found Tuesday at a hotel in Miami where investigators believe he died by suicide, the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner said Wednesday.

The producer and screenwriter is credited with breaking ground for Latinos and gay people in Hollywood with a show about a Mexican American woman who arrives for her first day working at a New York fashion magazine in a poncho. The sitcom, which was also produced by Salma Hayek, made actress America Ferrera a star.

In 2007, “Ugly Betty” won a Golden Globe for best TV series in the musical or comedy category and landed Ferrera her first and only Golden Globe for actress in the same category.


Ferrera and others in the entertainment industry, including actress Judith Light and singer-actress Vanessa Williams, mourned his death on social media.

“His talent and creativity brought me and so many others such joy & light,” Ferrera wrote on Instagram.

Before “Ugly Betty,” Horta wrote the screenplay for the 1998 horror film “Urban Legend,” starring Jared Leto and Tara Reid, as well as the short-lived 2003 series “Jake 2.0,” starring Christopher Gorham.

“Ugly Betty” ran on the ABC network from 2006 to 2010. The idea came from “I am Ugly Betty,” a 1999 Colombian soap opera that was also adapted in Mexico and Germany.

The show appealed to Latino and LGBTQ audiences because of how it weaved in story lines familiar to them. In one scene, the father of the protagonist tells his family that he had been living in the U.S. illegally.

The series also depicted a transgender character’s transition and the experience of a teenage boy as he gradually comes to terms with his sexuality. Horta was gay and came out to his Cuban American family when he was 19. He told USA Today in 2017 that he saw a lot of himself in that character.

Horta was born and raised in Miami.

His family said in a statement that “Silvio touched the lives of millions” but that he had an ongoing struggle with addiction and his mental health.

“Through it all, he always found a way to turn his struggle into laughter,” the statement said. “He was a kind and beautiful man. He may be gone but his light will shine on.”