Fifty years of Sofia Vergara, whose typecasting made her the best-paid actress on television
The Colombian conquered Hollywood without losing her accent, her sense of humor or her unique personality
“Whoever says age doesn’t matter is lying,” Sofia Vergara told EL PAÍS some years ago. “Of course I’d like to be young forever.” Despite all her accomplishments, the Colombian actress and model, born on July 10, 1972, couldn’t stop the years from passing: she has just turned 50. But Hollywood’s most powerful Latina, and one of the best-paid stars in the industry, has managed to ward off the effects of time. On her Instagram, Vergara advertises giveaways of free summer vacations. Now she sports a one-piece bathing suit instead of the bikinis she wore in the 1990s, but with the same body, the same tone and, above all, the same sense of humor. If anything defines the unusual charisma of the Modern Family star, it is her humor. Just like her character Gloria Delgado, who gave a dash of color to the Pritchett family, she is known for telling it like it is.
Over the show’s 11 seasons, Gloria Delgado won Sofia Vergara four Screen Actors Guild awards, in addition to four nominations to the Emmys and Golden Globes, all by exploiting the stereotype of a Latina woman. Her fame may have seemed fleeting, but her career, first as a model and host and then an actress, now spans 30 years. Of course, she began on the Hispanic market, and for those who expect an overnight rise to fame, that doesn’t count. “I can’t complain. Here I’ve found all the roles I need and more,” Vergara has reiterated in numerous interviews.
Those roles made her the best-paid actress in television for seven consecutive years, with annual income over €35 million between Modern Family, her work on America’s Got Talent and the occasional commercial campaign. In 2018, her last year as the best-paid actress, she made €37.3 million, dwarfing the €21.5 million income of Big Bang Theory actress Kaley Cuoco, who appeared second on the list.
But Vergara’s fame doesn’t blind her. She knows that, despite her success, Hispanics in Hollywood lack opportunities. “And it’s not easy to move a project forward,” she said, perhaps thinking of the miniseries Griselda, in which she plays Griselda Blanco, the Colombian woman who headed the largest drug cartel in the 1970s and 80s. The project comes from the creators of Narcos, and Vergara is both the protagonist and the executive producer.
The actress has been criticized by her colleagues for representing Latino stereotypes. Mexican actress Kate del Castillo dared to voice her opinion: “I love her, but not all of us have the look of Sofia Vergara,” she said, referring to the lack of non-ethnic roles for Hispanic actors. Vergara, daughter of a rancher and a housewife, would also prefer more variety, but, as she says, she isn’t afraid of the stereotype. “I have this accent, and I paid a ton of money to get rid of it when I couldn’t understand why Penélope [Cruz] or Salma [Hayek] hadn’t done it. But it didn’t work,” she has said, referring to fellow actresses who hold their ground as Hispanics in Hollywood.
Though the actress is known for her smile, those who imagine her life to be picture-perfect—especially when she appears arm in arm with husband and fellow actor Joe Manganiello—should think twice. Vergara left her native country after one of her brothers was killed in a fight in Colombia. Another of her brothers was deported from the United States for drug problems. Vergara was first married at the age of 18. By age 20, she had gotten divorced and given birth to a son, Manolo.
About to turn 31, Vergara’s son is also involved in the industry. The actress jokes about the small age difference with her child, noting that they often have dinner together with their respective partners. “My greatest success as the dentist I never was is that my son doesn’t have a single cavity,” she jokes, never having finished her studies because the lights of Hollywood got in her way.
The actress has faced more obstacles in these 50 years. She battled thyroid cancer, making her even more careful about what goes into her body. And she was embroiled in a public dispute for her own embryos with the businessman and sometimes actor Nick Loeb. After more than five years of fighting, she ended up winning. In April 2021, a Los Angeles court rejected Loeb’s last appeal to use the genetic material that they froze when they were a couple.
Still, Sofia Margarita Vergara’s smile continues shining, dedicated to her 26 million followers on Instagram and beyond. She is perpetually accompanied by superlatives: “the highest paid actress,” “the most beautiful,” “one of the most influential Latinas.” All of that, according to a Vergaraland video blog by her son, is thanks to Colombian food. “I’m very conscious about what I eat, that it is healthy, about the creams that I use and the exercise that I do. Although I also like Italian food,” she added.