Silvio Horta, the gay man who created the hit TV comedy-drama Ugly Betty, has died at age 45, apparently by suicide.
Horta was found dead Tuesday in a motel room in Miami, Variety reports. Sources told the publication that the cause was a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but representatives for Horta declined to comment.
Ugly Betty, which ran on ABC from 2006 to 2010, focused on a bright and unconventional young Mexican-American woman, Betty Suarez (America Ferrera), working at a New York fashion magazine. Other prominent characters included Wilhelmina Slater, the magazine's diva of an editor, played by Vanessa Williams; her gay assistant, Marc St. James, played by gay actor Michael Urie; and Betty's nephew Justin (Mark Indelicato), who was eventually revealed to be gay and was named by The Advocate in 2016 as one of the best LGBTQ sitcom characters of all time.
Justin, who Horta once described to The Advocate as a "fashion-fabulous prodigy," and his coming-out story were based partly on Horta and his life. Of the character's coming-out process, which included denial at one point, Horta told The Advocate in 2009, "We want to tell a story of Justin coming to terms with his identity over the course of this whole year, and I think when he says that, it's really the beginning of telling the story, as opposed to the end. It gives us a place to go to. He's gonna be struggling with his identity, and that's part of it that's very realistic and relatable. Not really knowing who you are or what you are."
Horta was also a writer and showrunner on Ugly Betty. The series was inspired by a Colombian telenovela, Yo Soy Betty, La Fea.
Horta was born to Cuban parents in Miami in 1974 and studied film at New York University. His career took off in 1998 with a horror movie he wrote, Urban Legend, which starred Jared Leto and Alicia Witt. In the early 2000s, he wrote and executive-produced the science fiction series The Chronicle and Jake 2.0. The most recent credit listed for him on the Internet Movie Database was a 2015 TV movie, The Curse of the Fuentes Women, with Horta as writer and executive producer. He had a series in development at Fox in 2018 in collaboration with Mary J. Blige, Variety reports, but it has never come to fruition. With the title Move, it was to be based on the career of Laurieann Gibson, a choreographer who worked with Beyonce, Michael Jackson, Alicia Keys, and Lady Gaga.
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If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. LGBTQ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386. You can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.