Fernando Gaitan, Creator of Telenovela That Inspired 'Ugly Betty,' Dies at 58

Fernando Gaitan-Getty-H 2019
Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Fox Hispanic Media

'Yo Soy Betty La Fea,' remade in English as ABC's 'Ugly Betty,' ranks among the most successful Spanish-language telenovelas of all time.

Award-winning Colombian writer-producer Fernando Gaitan, whose enormously popular telenovela Yo Soy Betty La Fea was remade in some two dozen countries, died Tuesday in a Bogota hospital due to heart failure. He was 58.

During a career that spanned more than four decades, Gaitan is best known for the Golden Globe and Emmy winner Ugly Betty, which was produced by Salma Hayek and starred America Ferrera. Betty is getting yet another reboot with the Spanish-language soap Betty en NY, which is set to debut Feb. 6 on Telemundo.

Gaitan launched his writing career as a journalist at the Bogota-based daily El Tiempo, where he worked for 19 years before moving on to television. His big screenwriting break came with Cafe Con Aroma de Mujer, a Colombia-set love story which was later adapted by Televisa in Mexico under the title Destilando Amor.

After the huge success of Yo Soy Betty La Fea and Ugly Betty, Gaitan served as vp content and production at Colombian network RCN from 2009 to 2014.

Earlier this year, Sony Pictures Television announced that it had signed a deal to develop new content with Gaitan. Upon announcing the pact, Ana Bond, SPT's vp international productions, praised Gaitan as one of the industry's most talented writers due to his "original ideas and stories that resonate with a very broad audience." 

Oscar-nominated Mexican screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros) called Gaitan "one of the best and most talented men I've known."

Gaitan is survived by his three children.