Betty Internacional — Adaptations Throughout the World

Colombia: "Yo soy Betty, la fea" (1999)

It all started in Colombia with "Yo soy Betty, la fea" (I am Betty, the Ugly), which starred Ana Maria Orozco as Beatriz 'Betty' Pinzón Solano, the sweet and intelligent ugly duckling who fell in love with her womanizing boss, Armando Mendoza Sáenz (played by Jorge Enrique Abello), at EcoModa, a prominent Bogotá fashion house. Through her strength of spirit, and with a little help from her family and friends, Betty's inner beauty emerged for all to see.
India: "Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin" (2003)

India's popular "Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin" (There's No One Like Jassi), starred Mona Singh as Jasmeet 'Jassi' Wahlia and Apurva Agnihotri as Armaan Suri. Jassi worked for Armaan at the fashion house, Gulmohur. This show was so popular that it stayed on the air for over two and a half years.

Turkey: "Sensiz Olmuyor" (2005)

Turkey's "Sensiz Olmuyor" (Won't Work Without You) condensed its story into 26 episodes. When it debuted on Show TV in January of 2005, Özlem Conker played Gönül Üstünsoy and pop star Emre Altuğ appeared as Arda Gazioğlu, Gönül's boss and love interest. After 13 episodes, the show moved to rival network Kanal D and the role of Gönül was then portrayed by Yeliz Şar for the final 13 episodes.

Germany: "Verliebt in Berlin" (2005)

Germany's "Verliebt in Berlin" (In Love in Berlin) starred Alexandra Neldel as Elisabeth 'Lisa' Plenske and Mathis Künzler as David Seidel. Lisa worked for David at the fashion house, Kerima Moda. After their story wrapped up, a second season of the series was ordered, retaining many cast members from the previous season, but now focusing on Lisa's half-brother, Bruno.

Russia: "Ne Rodis Krasivoy" (2005)

Russia's "Ne Rodis Krasivoy" (Be Not Born Beautiful) was the most faithful remake of "Yo soy Betty, la fea" to date. It starred Nelli Uvarova as Ekaterina 'Katya' Valerievna Pushkaryova and Grigori Antipenko as Andrei Pavlovich Zhdanov. Katya worked for Grigori at the fashion house, Zimaletto. The show's title is a reference to a Russian proverb, "Be not born beautiful, but be born happy."
Mexico: "La fea más bella" (2006)

Mexico's "La fea más bella" (The Prettiest Ugly) featured the most slapstick humor of all the "Betty" adaptations.  Angélica Vale played Leticia 'Lety' Padilla Solis in a very broad manner, much like the sketch comedy characters she used to play on "La Parodia".  Jaime Camil played Fernando Mendiola, Lety's boss at Conceptos, a video production house. The show's huge ratings, both in Mexico and on Univision in the U.S., led the producers to extend the run of the series more than once.

The Netherlands: "Lotte" (2006)

Holland's "Lotte" starred Nyncke Beekhuyzen as Lotte Pronk and Lars Oostveen as Vico Maesland. Lotte worked for Vico at the fashion house, Emoda. By the time the protagonists got married, many of their friends had linked up into cozy couplings that were different from the pairing combinations that were seen in any of the other adaptations.
Spain: "Yo soy Bea" (2006)

Spain's "Yo soy Bea" (I am Bea) starred Ruth Núñez as Beatriz 'Bea' Pérez Pinzón and Alejandro Tous as Álvaro Aguilar. Bea was Álvaro's assistant at bulevar 21, a glossy fashion magazine. Bea's name sounds similar to the Spanish word bella, which means beautiful (and is only one letter away from the word fea, which means ugly). So when you say, "Yo soy Bea," it almost sounds to a Spanish-speaking person like you're saying, "I am beautiful." The series continued for fourteen months after Bea and Álvaro got married and departed.

Greece: "Maria, i Asximi" (2007)

Greece's "Maria, i Asximi" (Maria, the Ugly)—originally called "Glikia mou Asximi" (Ugly Sweetheart)—premiered on January 1, 2007 and starred Angeliki Daliani as Maria Papasotiriou and Anthimos Ananiadis as her boss at Ecomoda, Alexis Mandas. The show was an instant hit, often capturing 40 to 47% of the viewing audience during its timeslot.
Belgium: "Sara" (2007)

Belgium's "Sara" premiered on September 25, 2007 on the VTM network and starred Veerle Baetens as Sara De Roose and Gert Winckelmans as her boss, Simon Van Wijck, at Présence, a prestigious Flemish fashion house in Antwerp. In many ways this telenovela format series resembled Germany's "Verliebt in Berlin."

Croatia: "Ne daj se, Nina" (2007)

Croatia's "Ne daj se, Nina" (Don't Give Up, Nina) premiered on October 30, 2007 and was a co-production of FOX Televizija Srbija and RTL Televizije Hrvatska (Croatia) for broadcast in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Macedonia. The show starred Lana Gojak as Nina Brlek and Robert Kurbaša as her boss, David Glowatzky, at H-Moda, a prestigious fashion house.
Vietnam: "Cô Gái Xâu Xí" (2008)

Vietnam's 169-episode "Cô Gái Xâu Xí" (Ugly Girl) premiered on VTV3 early on February 11, 2008. The series followed the central plot of the original very closely and starred Ngoc Hiep as Huyen Dieu and Chi Bao as An Dông, the new president of SB Brands Trading J.S.C. The final episode flashed forward to show the protagonists two decades later.

Czech Republic: "Ošklivka Katka" (2008)

The Czech Republic's "Ošklivka Katka" (Ugly Katka) premiered on March 3, 2008, and starred Kateřina Janečková as Kateřina Bertoldová and Lukáš Hejlík as Tomáš Meduna, her boss at KM Styl. The Prima network aired two episodes per week, on Monday and Wednesday nights. Unfortunately, the series was canceled after only 73 of the projected 168 episodes were completed.
The Philippines: "I Betty la Fea" (2008)

After a long search, and many rumors, it was finally revealed that the lead roles of Betty and Armando in "I Betty la Fea" (I Love Ugly Betty) would go to Bea Alonzo and her frequent on-screen romantic lead, John Lloyd Cruz. The workplace in this version, Ecomoda Manila, was not a fashion house, but a prestigious advertising agency in the Philippine capital. The series premiered on September 8, 2008.

China: "Chou Nu Wu Di" (2008)

China's "Chou Nu Wu Di" (The Ugly Girl Without Rival) premiered on September 28, 2008. The series was split into four seasons and starred nineteen-year-old newcomer Li Xin Ru as Lin Wu Di, the heroine, and Liu Xiao Hu as Fei De Nan, Wu Di's boss at IDEA, a prestigious advertising agency.
Poland: "BrzydUla" (2008)

Poland's "BrzydUla" (Ugly) premiered on October 6, 2008, on the TVN network. The series starred Julia Kamińska as Ula Cieplak and Filip Bobek as Marek Dobrzański, Ula's boss at Domu Mody Febo & Dobrzański, a prestigious Warsaw fashion house. The series did not end with a wedding for its protagonists, because producers were hoping to bring the characters back for a sequel series.

Brazil: "Bela, a Feia" (2009)

After one of the most tumultuous pre-production casting periods in Betty history, Brazil's "Bela, a Feia" (Ugly Bela) premiered on August 4, 2009. The series, which was co-produced by Mexico's Televisa and Brazil's Rede Record, starred Mexican-Brazilian actress Giselle Itiê as Bela and Bruno Ferrari as Rodrigo Ávila, Bela's boss at +/Brasil, a prestigious advertising agency. This is the only adaptation, other than "Ugly Betty", that did not follow the original novela's central story line.
Georgia: "Gogona Gareubnidan" (2010)

The Georgian adaptation's 10-episode first season debuted shortly after "Ugly Betty" ended, and about a week before the finale of "Bela, a Feia", so during most of its run, this was the only version of the Betty story being produced anywhere in the world. Tina Makharadze starred as Tamuna and Tornike Gogrichiani played her boss, Nika. The first episode was based on the pilot episode of "Ugly Betty", making this the first adaptation to be based directly on the American dramedy and not the Colombian telenovela.

More International Information:
  • Shortly after "Yo soy Betty, la fea" became at hit in Colombia in 1999, it was exported to countries in every corner of the world. In some countries it was dubbed into their local languages, in others it aired in Spanish with translated subtitles. The telenovela became extremely popular in just about every country in which it was broadcast—from Latin America to Eastern Europe to the middle of the Pacific Ocean—often despite vast cultural differences.
  • Although Israel's "Esti Ha'mechoeret" (2003) is often named as an adaptation of "Yo soy Betty, la fea," it was actually an adaptation of Mexico's "El Amor no es como lo pintan" (2000).  If "Esti" had been an official "Betty" adaptation, it would have been the first, because it debuted shortly before India's "Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin" premiered in September 2003.
  • India was the first country to buy the rights from Colombia's RCN to adapt the story locally, with a new cast, in a new language, and with some new characters and story elements woven into the original's central plot. "Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin" premiered in 2003, just a year and a half after "Yo soy Betty, la fea" ended, and it also turned out to be a huge hit. Before long, a succession of seventeen other countries would jump on the Betty bandwagon.
  • 2008 and 2009 were the biggest years for the international Betty craze. In the middle of 2008, there were seven adaptations on the air: Spain's "Yo soy Bea," the U.S.A.'s "Ugly Betty," Greece's "Maria i Asximi," Belgium's "Sara," Croatia's "Ne daj se, Nina," Vietnam's "Co Gai Xau Xi," and the Czech Republic's "Osklivka Katka." The Greek, Belgian, and Croatian versions ended in the middle of 2008, but by the end of the year three new adaptations (the Philippines' "I Love Betty la Fea," China's "Chou Nu Wu Di," and Poland's "BrzydUla") were launched, so 2009 began with seven versions on the air. I've created this handy timeline for reference.
  • After the finale of Brazil's "Bela, a Feia" on June 2, 2010, there was only one adaptation of "Yo soy Betty, la fea" in production in the world: Georgia's "Gogona Gareubnidan".  China's "Chou Nu Wu Di" ended on March 5, 2010, followed by the U.S.A.'s "Ugly Betty" finale on April 14, and "Bela, a Feia" on June 2, so that left Tamuna of "Gogona Gareubnidan" as the last Betty standing.
  • "Gogona Gareubnidan" was the first Betty adaptation to be based directly on the American dramedy and not the Colombian telenovela. All of the other Betty adaptations used the telenovela format, and all of them (except "Bela, a Feia") used the basic central plot of "Yo soy Betty, la fea".
  • "Gogona Gareubnidan" was the only Betty adaptation that didn't use fantasy dream sequences, not even for its protagonist. Such whimsical segments were the hallmark of every other adaptation.
  • "Gogona Gareubnidan" was the only Betty adaptation to lose its leading man. During the first half of the second season Nika (Tornike Gogrichiani) was in a coma, and by the end of the season he left Tbilisi to go to America to support his girlfriend during her cancer treatments. As late as the fourth season, producers claimed that it was possible that Nika may return, but Tornike Gogrichiani—who supposedly left because of a salary dispute—stated in interviews that he hadn't been given any indication that this was true and he thought it highly unlikely. Be that as it may, however, Tornike Gogrichiani did in fact return as Nika Kekelidze in the spin-off continuation series, "Gogona Gareubnidan MedER".
  • "Gogona Gareubnidan" was the only "Betty" adaptation in which the main character ended up with someone other than her boss. Tamuna married Vakho and the two characters departed from the series, but the show went on without them, much like how Germany's "Verliebt in Berlin" and Spain's "Yo soy Bea" continued after their protagonists married and moved away.
  • Even though "Ugly Betty" ended with only 85 episodes, much fewer than many of the other long-lasting versions, it is the version that stayed on the air the longest (3 years, 6 months, and 2 weeks). To illustrate the contrast, "Yo soy Betty, la fea" racked up 335 episodes in a year and a half. This disparity exists because "Ugly Betty" aired in the U.S. prime-time series format, not the Latin-American telenovela format.
  • Turkey's "Sensiz Olmuyor" compressed the entire core story line from "Yo soy Betty, la fea" into a mere 26 episodes, which aired over the course of about eight months in 2005. Despite the fact that this version had the shortest length, it was the only adaptation to switch networks during its run, and it was also the only version to have its female protagonist portrayed by two different actresses.
  • Although the specific circumstances were not always identical, many themes and incidents were carried through to almost every adaptation of "Yo soy Betty, la fea," such as the protagonist getting a disastrous makeover early in the run, the protagonist having a lively imagination, multiple celebrity guest appearances, the protagonist having a positive influence on the nasty people in her workplace, and the protagonist getting a dramatic transformation towards the end of the series.
  • It has been rumored that many of the adaptations would have sequels, but so far "EcoModa" is the only one that ever became a reality. Rumors of follow-ups have circulated regarding the adaptations from India, Russia, Mexico, China, and Poland. Of these, the most likely to actually make it back to TV is Poland's "BrzydUla."  In fact, a sequel was tentatively planned before "BrzydUla" even ended.
  • Many of the actresses who portrayed the various Bettys were relative unknowns who were forced to disguise their physical beauty in public until their characters eventually got their dramatic makeovers. Many of them could only pose for photographs in their costumes and makeup, and also had to give interviews in character.
  • On July 10, 2008, Angeliki Daliani ("Maria, I Asximi"), Veerle Baetens ("Sara"), and Nyncke Beekhuyzen ("Lotte") appeared at Roma Fiction Fest to participate in a celebration of "Yo soy Betty, la fea" and all of its international incarnations. The event, entitled "Fenomenale Betty", took an in-depth look at the cultural impact of the show's various incarnations and their effect on pop culture worldwide. Fernando Gaitán, creator of the original telenovela also appeared, along with representatives of other versions, such as Marianna Cortes McAllister, who was responsible for adapting Spain's "Yo soy Bea", and Michael Esser, who wrote Germany's "Verliebt in Berlin".  To read details of the event, click here.
  • For the 2010 animated film How to Train Your Dragon (called "Hoe tem je een draak" in Dutch-speaking countries), Veerle Baetens (Sara de Roose) dubbed the voice of Astrid in Dutch for audiences in the Netherlands and Flemish Belgium. In Poland, Julia Kamińska (who played Ula on "BrzydUla") dubbed the voice of Astrid in Polish for the film (called "Jak Wytresować Smoka" in Poland). The original English voice-over for the character was done by none other than America Ferrera (Betty Suarez on "Ugly Betty"). This is probably the only time that three of the international Bettys have shared another acting role.
  • Russia's "Ne Rodis Krasivoy" was one of the only adaptations to limit the blatant product placement that was so common in the original, as well as in most of the remakes.
  • Of all the adaptations (not including "Ugly Betty"), only two were canceled before they were able to wrap up their stories. Although "Ne daj se, Nina" and "Ošklivka Katka" were quite popular, both were considered too costly to justify continuing production.
See the "Yo soy Betty, la fea" page, as well as the pages for its various adaptations, for more trivia items.
Rebroadcasts in other countries

In addition to the remakes and reworkings of the "Betty" story mentioned above, more are being planned for future broadcasts in other lands. It has been rumored that a version is going to be produced in Dubai and one in France, among other nations.

Only a few of the following countries have produced their own adaptations, but they've all shown one or more of the existing versions dubbed into their native languages: Colombia's "Yo soy Betty, la fea" was shown in Romania, Brazil as "Betty, a Feia", Malaysia, Italy as "Betty la Cozza" (cozza literally means "mussel"), Hungary, Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, Japan as "Betty, Ai to uragiri no hishojitsu" (translation: Betty, Love and Betrayal Secretarial Office), the Philippines, and China; Mexico's "La fea más bella" was shown in Brazil as "A Feia Mais Bela", and also in the Philippines, among other countries; Germany's "Verliebt in Berlin" was shown in Hungary as "Lisa csak egy van" (Lisa is the Only One), and in France, Belgium, and Switzerland as "Le destin de Lisa"; Russia's "Ne Rodis Krasivoy" was shown in most of the nations that were formerly part of the USSR; and "Ugly Betty" is also shown in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden, Italy, and a host of other lands.

In 2009, viewers in Italy and Brazil, which were both reportedly expecting their own adaptations that year, had expressed concern regarding Betty over-saturation, primarily because TV stations in those countries had previously aired "Yo soy Betty, la fea", "La Fea más bella", and "Ugly Betty". The Brasileira Betty was the first to test the waters, and although the ratings were not impressive, the relatively small audience is less a reflection on the show's quality than it is on the nature of the rivalry between its network, Record, and the country's number one network, Globo. Whether or not Italians will embrace their own Betty remains to be seen, but if the huge success of the home-grown versions that have aired from the Philippines to Poland is any indication, many people have enough room in their hearts for more than one Betty... or more than three, as the case may be.
My Dream Bettys

Most of the existing variations of the "Betty" story have been set in the world of fashion, either at a prestigious fashion house or a glossy fashion magazine, so it's unfortunate that two of the world's most important fashion capitals, Paris and Milan, haven't been represented yet. It would be fun to see what the French and Italians might do with the story, even if they were to do so in a movie instead of a TV series.

French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet could make a beautiful film, especially if he were to cast his Amélie star Audrey Tautou, or perhaps La Vie en Rose star Marion Cotillard, in the lead role. Melvil Poupaud could play her employer and love interest, Armand. And since Spanish/Italian singer/actor Miguel Bose speaks fluent Italian and French, he could play Hugo Lombardi in either version. As long as my French is correct, I think that Je suis Belle, la moche ("I am Belle, the ugly one") would be the perfect title. The main character could be named Isabelle—Belle for short—and the title would serve as a play on words, because "belle" is also the French word for beautiful, so the title could also be translated as "I am Beautiful, the Ugly one." [NOTE: I wrote this before the Brazilian's named their version "Bela, a Feia".]

Roberto Benigni could direct the Italian version, and he and his wife, Nicoletta Braschi, could play Bella's parents, and Raoul Bova could play Bella's boss.

And while I'm fantasizing about dream casts and directors, I'd also love to see Spain's Pedro Almodóvar direct a movie version of "Yo soy Bea". No other director tells stories that center around female characters better than Almodóvar.
© Tony Lagarto

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