By Humberto Guida | January 4, 2011 | People
Sofia Vergara, a former model-turned-Spanish language television host-turned-telenovela star, has now accomplished the ultimate crossover into American culture. And she’s not just doing it with her bodacious looks.
Life in a Modern Family
Vergara—who was nominated for an Emmy last year and Golden Globe this month—plays Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on ABC’s smash hit Modern Family, and is making her mark as a bona fide actress, albeit one with a delicious signature Spanish accent.
“One of the things I’m very proud of is the fact that I am representing Latin culture with an accent so strong that I don’t understand half the things I say myself,” Vergara jokes unmistakably Colombian inflection. “But it’s good that there can be a loud Latina woman acting crazy on American television. America is ready for more Latin culture mixed in with its own."
The role of Gloria was written with Vergara in mind. Series creators Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd had seen her comedic chops on display in the short-lived sitcom The Knights of Prosperity. They quickly envisioned Vergara as the fiery housewife opposite Ed O’Neill’s Jay Pritchett. The show itself is one of television’s most wildly popular sitcoms ever. Shot in a distinctive “mockumentary” style, Modern Family not only garners high ratings and critical acclaim, but in 2010 won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series.
“I never would have dreamed I’d be on such an amazing show. We knew when we started filming that it was going to be special,” Vergara explains. “I met with the creators, and instantly we knew we’d make Gloria loud and proud of her culture. And I’m happy she’s a little crazy too. There aren’t enough characters with her sabor on TV.”
Sofia's Road to Fame
Vergara is certainly the embodiment of a particular kind of American dream. But her journey has been as turbulent and demanding as it’s been glamorous. Surprisingly—considering her youthful looks—she’s the mother of a 19-year-old-son, Manolo, whom she had when she herself was only 20. Everything she’s received since has been the result of hard work and focused determination.
Vergara was born in Barranquilla and attended a bilingual school along with her five siblings. Known as "La Toti" to family and friends growing up, she never displayed aspirations to be a star. Her original plan? Dentistry. “I never saw myself as an actress. I still don’t. But back in Colombia I just wanted to study and work to support my son,” she says. “It was just by chance that I got the opportunity to model, and everything just happened after that."
The gorgeous young Colombian bombshell’s discovery was as wonderfully clichéd as they come; She was spotted by a photographer while walking on the beach. After that, modeling jobs turned into TV spots in no time, and in 1995 she landed her first serious gig, as cohost of Univision’s series, Fuera de Serie. That job entailed a major move in her life and career: leaving Colombia for Miami.
“I was 22, a single mother, and I picked up everything I had, which was very little but really my whole life. I brought my son, my mother and my sister to Miami. It was difficult, but it turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever done because it opened up the doors that led me to where I am now,” Vergara explains.
Making her transition to a new country a little easier was the fact that Vergara felt completely at home in Miami, where she still maintains a residence. “I loved Miami from the moment I arrived. It made things so much more comfortable for me: to be in South Beach in the ’90s, around so many Latin people in a vibrant culture, with such perfect weather. I still love going to Lincoln Road and just seeing all the people, the palm trees. It’s a beautiful place.”
Beating Cancer and Standing by Her Man
In the years since her move to Miami, Vergara’s career has been on a steady rise, though her personal tribulations were in no way over. In 2002 she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. “It was a tough thing for me, but it made me much stronger. I have family and I’m a mother, and I knew I could get through it.”
Another trauma involving her boyfriend also recently made headlines. Nick Loeb, a former Florida politico and current Hollywood producer, was involved in a serious car accident that left him hospitalized for three weeks. According to reports, Vergara often slept at the hospital and has tended to him at home since. But with the worst of that ordeal behind them, Vergara can now focus on the glory that is coming her way thanks to the universally loved character she helped create.
“It’s a very special time in my life, and the best thing about being a popular character on a hit show is that I know I have a great job next year,” Vergara exclaims. “Honestly, people ask me, What’s next? I say I just want to do it all. I love to work. And I have to thank God every day for having the best job in the world. Hopefully in some way I deserve all this. But I’m never sure I do.”
Photograph by Steve Erle Styling by Deborah Waknin at The Wall Group Hair by Jen Atkin at The Wall Group Makeup by Kayleen McAdams for MAC at The Wall Group Manicure by Beth Fricke using OPI Digital Services and retouching by A.I. Digital Imagination Special thanks to Siren Studios and The Sagami Group