'Ugly Betty' creator Silvio Horta dies at 45

The American version of "Ugly Betty" was lauded for revolutionizing television with its Latino and LGBTQ representation.
Image: Silvio Horta, executive producer of "Ugly Betty," photographed in Los Angeles in 2008.
Silvio Horta, executive producer of "Ugly Betty," photographed in Los Angeles in 2008.Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images file

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By Gwen Aviles

Silvio Horta, the creator of the Golden Globe-winning television series "Ugly Betty," was found dead in a Miami hotel room Tuesday, his family told NBC News.

He was 45.

"It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our dear brother and son, Silvio Horta," his mom, Hilda, and sister, Anna, wrote in a statement provided to NBC News. "Silvio had an ongoing struggle with addiction and depression, but through it all, he always found a way to turn his struggle into laughter ... He may be gone but his light will shine on."

The American version of “Ugly Betty,” which starred America Ferrera, was lauded for revolutionizing the television landscape by showing that a series reflecting the U.S. Latino presence could be commercially successful. The comedy-drama, which was adapted from a Colombian telenovela titled "Yo soy Betty, la fea," followed an intelligent, albeit awkward, Mexican American woman from Queens (Ferrera) as she navigated a new job at a pretentious fashion magazine in Manhattan.

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The "Ugly Betty" cast and fans are now mourning the showrunner and lead writer of the show, which ran for four seasons on ABC from 2006 to 2010.

Ferrera wrote on Instagram that she was "stunned" to hear of Horta's death and that she was thinking of his family during the difficult time.

"His talent and creativity brought me and so many others such joy & light," Ferrera wrote. "I’m thinking of his family and loved ones who must be in so much pain right now and of the whole Ugly Betty family who feel this loss so deeply."

Michael Urie, who played the coy personal assistant Marc St. James on "Ugly Betty," tweeted that he "will forever be indebted to this sweet, brilliant man," while Vanessa Williams, who portrayed the formidable magazine editor Wilhelmina Slater on the show, wrote on Instagram that "his passion will be missed."

"Ugly Betty was a pivotal moment for me as a young Latina having never seen a family like mine portrayed on TV, so I’m eternally grateful for Silvio Horta’s work," one fan tweeted.

The show was also praised by GLAAD and other advocacy groups for its LGBTQ representation, as one of the series' main characters Justin (Mark Indelicato) comes out and kisses a boy in the last season.

"Waking up in the UK to the heartbreaking news that my wonderful, sparkling, talented old pal of nearly 20 years is gone," wrote Dustin Lance Black, an LGBTQ activist and the writer of the Oscar-winning film "Milk." "Rest in joy and peace. You were one of a kind."

Horta was openly gay and came out to his family when he was 19 years old. He was born in Miami to Cuban parents and graduated from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Prior to "Ugly Betty," he worked as a perfume spritzer at a Nordstrom department store and wrote the screenplay to the satirical teen horror film "Urban Legend." He also created two science fiction television shows, "Jake 2.0" and "The Chronicle."

His family said a service will be held in Miami, with a memorial service to be announced in Los Angeles.