For millions of people, Colombian-American actress Sofia Vergara is instantly recognizable as one of the most famous faces of the celebrity world. She’s appeared in the likes of Four Brothers and Madea Goes to Jail, as well as starring in Modern Family.
Her showbiz career has been an undisputed success, with multiple award nominations and some big-money contracts. However, behind the scenes, Sofia has endured some harsh struggles and had to fight to get to where she is. Here’s her full story, including some of the biggest challenges she’s had to face, from cancer to kidnapping.
Born in Barranquilla
The story of Sofia Vergara begins in the Colombian district of Barranquilla, part of the Atlantico department in northern Colombia. It was there that Sofia was born on July 10, 1972. Her parents were Margarita Vergara de Vergara, a homemaker, and Julio Enrique Vergara Robayo, a cattle rancher.
Sofia had five siblings and was part of a big family, with lots of cousins and other relatives visiting the family home on a regular basis. So, throughout her childhood, she was always surrounded by various family members, helping her grow into an active and sociable girl.
She Wanted to Be a Dentist
Many actors dream of a life in show business from an early age and say that they always knew they wanted to be actors. However, that was not the case for Sofia Vergara, who had very different plans in mind.
Sofia actually wanted to be a dentist. As a child, she attended a private bilingual school to improve her language skills and then went to college in Colombia to study dentistry for a few years. However, she didn’t finish her studies, as she dropped out to pursue a career in modeling.
Spotted on a Beach
It was a random coincidence that led to Sofia deciding to abandon her studies in dentistry and try to become a model. She was on a beach one day when a photographer happened to be walking by and was immediately drawn to her.
The photographer said that Sofia could become a model and offered her some work. However, coming from a strict Catholic family, Sofia wasn’t sure if she should accept. She took the time to speak with her Catholic teachers and family members to get permission before later deciding to go through with the modeling job.
Her First Screen Role Was in a Pepsi Commercial
From the moment Sofia was spotted on that beach, her life began to change. Suddenly, she was not only receiving offers for modeling jobs but also being offered roles on TV in ads and commercials, which she soon decided to accept.
At the young age of 17, Sofia appeared in her first commercial. It only aired in Latin America, but it helped to get more eyes on Sofia and instantly raised her profile. After that, she started to study acting at the Creative Workshops School of Acting.
Her First TV Role
Sofia studied hard at the Creative Workshops School of Acting, building up her skills in order to earn her spot on TV and in films whenever the opportunity arose. And it didn’t take too long for the young actor to be offered her first role on Spanish-language TV in a telenovela.
In 1995, Sofia was given a part in the Mexican telenovela Acapulco, Cuerpo y Alma, which translates to “Acapulco, Body and Soul” in English. It was produced for Televisa and directed by Juan Carlos Munoz. Sofia didn’t have a large part in the show, but it was still a great achievement and experience for her.
Getting More Exposure
Sofia’s career received a big boost when she was given a hosting job on a Univision travel show called Fuera de Serie. She hosted the show for several years, from 1995 through 1998, and this helped build her confidence in front of the cameras.
Her job with Fuera de Serie also allowed Sofia to travel the world. She was able to fly to all kinds of exotic destinations. Plus, since the show was aired in the United States, it also helped to get her some much-needed exposure in America.
The Death of Her Brother
Sadly, not long before Sofia got her first big break in the US, she and her family received some very distressing news and endured one of the toughest times in their lives: the death of a beloved family member.
In the late ’90s, Sofia’s brother Rafael was killed. She later called his death “a nightmare,” citing it as one of the most painful things she and her relatives had to deal with, and it’s clearly something that still haunts her today and can never be forgotten.
A Botched Kidnapping Attempt
In a 2011 interview with Parade, Sofia revealed more about what had happened with Rafael. She explained that since her family was quite successful, they were prime targets for kidnapping gangs in Colombia. Therefore, they all had to have protection and bodyguards beside them whenever they left their home.
Unfortunately, one day, Rafael went out without a bodyguard to protect him, and the kidnappers took advantage of that moment to strike. Tragically, he was killed when the kidnapping attempt went wrong, and the rest of the family were left to deal with the grief and loss of that terrible day.
Bringing Her Family to America
In the wake of her brother’s death, Sofia decided to take action. She immediately flew her mother, her sister, and her younger brother over to America to stay with her in Miami, Florida. She wanted the whole family to be safe and together during such a dark time.
Sofia recalls that her mother “was like a zombie” when she saw her, but the family did their best to overcome that tragedy together. She also expressed gratitude about living in America and being able to afford a big house where everyone could be safe and sheltered.
Diagnosed with Cancer
The death of Rafael was a huge blow to Sofia and her family. But sadly, even more hard times were on the way, not too long after. In 2000, when she was just 28, Sofia was diagnosed with cancer.
She was at a doctor’s appointment for her son, Manolo, when a doctor told her to get her thyroid checked. She did so, discovering that she had cancer and needed to have her thyroid removed. A new battle was about to begin.
The only way to clear Sofia of her cancer and potentially save her life in the long term was for her to have her thyroid surgically removed. So she bravely underwent the operation and then proceeded to have radioiodine therapy.
Thankfully, the operation was a success and the therapy helped to rid Sofia’s body of cancer once and for all. She made a full recovery but still has to take the medication in order to prevent hypothyroidism. She also needs to be tested regularly to check for any signs of cancer coming back.
Using Her Experience to Raise Awareness
Some celebrities don’t like to talk about illnesses or issues they’ve endured, but Sofia is very open about her battle with thyroid cancer. In fact, in the years since her diagnosis, she has used her platform to raise awareness about the risks of hyperthyroidism.
She became a spokesperson for the “Follow the Script” campaign in 2013, for example, and has also spoken in interviews about what her cancer has taught her about life, saying, “You have to live your life and be happy… But it’s important to go to the doctor, to have your checkups, to work out, eat healthy, everything.”
Getting Her Break
The early 2000s were an important period in Sofia’s life. She’d been dealing with serious personal troubles, with her brother’s death and cancer diagnosis. However, she continued working hard for her career and finally got the break in the US she’d been hoping for.
In 2002, she got her first film role with the 2002 comedy Big Trouble. It wasn’t a big part, and the film wasn’t a huge success, but it was still meaningful for Sofia to get such a great opportunity. She also had her first taste of US TV sitcoms with a role on ABC’s My Wife & Kids.
A Difficult Start
Even though Sofia had finally been able to play a part in a big-budget movie and appear in an episode of a popular TV show, she was still finding it hard to get opportunities as an immigrant actor in the US.
She later stated, “You can’t compare the opportunities you get to an American-accented actress. When they get 10 scripts a week, I get two a month.” Because of her appearance, Colombian heritage, and accent, she simply wasn’t being offered anywhere near as many parts as other actors around her.
Changing Her Accent
In order to try and get more parts, or at least more auditions, Sofia decided to hire a voice coach to help her get rid of her Colombian accent and acquire more of an American speaking voice. She hoped this would give her career a helping hand.
Unfortunately, this plan didn’t quite work the way Sofia had hoped. In fact, it had the opposite effect to what she had intended. “My auditions were getting worse because I was forgetting to act and focusing on the pronunciations.”
Changing Her Appearance
Her way of speaking wasn’t the only thing that Sofia tried to change in order to become more successful. She also tried to change her physical appearance, particularly her hair color, as she was a natural blonde but found that casting directors often wanted her to dye her hair darker.
In fact, throughout her whole career, Sofia has often been asked to dye her hair brown or black in order to appear more stereotypically Hispanic, hiding her natural blonde color. This might seem a little strange or unfair, but it’s part of the industry that Sofia has had to get used to.
Struggling to Make Her Mark
Even with the voice training and the changing of her hair color, Sofia was finding it hard to really make her mark on the US film and TV industry. She wasn’t offered very many parts, so she took what she could, appearing in a couple of failed TV comedies.
She had roles in Hot Properties in 2005 and Knights of Prosperity in 2007, as well as a recurring role on a Spanish-language version of Desperate Housewives called Amas de Casa Desesperadas in 2007. She was gradually getting more parts, but still waiting for a truly big break.
Someone Believed in Her
It almost seemed like Sofia’s big break was never going to come. She was working so hard, but only being rewarded with minor roles here and there and bit parts in projects that always seemed to fail. Fortunately, she had her very own guardian angel.
Her angel was former ABC president Steve McPherson. McPherson always believed in Sofia, right from the start. So, even after she had appeared in a couple of the network’s failed comedies like Hot Properties, he kept trying to find the right role for her, as he was sure she could be a star.
Working with Tyler Perry
Actor, director, and screenwriter Tyler Perry was another person who believed in Sofia Vergara. In the late 2000s, he offered her roles in two of his comedy films, Meet the Browns (2008) and Madea Goes to Jail (2009). This was a great boost for Sofia’s resume.
Both films were a success and demonstrated Sofia’s comedic talents and acting range, as she got to play two rather different roles. She also received critical acclaim and even got an ALMA (American Latino Media Arts) Award nomination for Madea Goes to Jail.
The Biggest Role of Her Life
Finally, after all of her hard work and struggle, Sofia’s career was starting to take off, but she could never have even imagined the huge role she was about to get on one of ABC’s most successful comedies of all time: Modern Family.
Created by Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan, Modern Family was a show about three related families living in the LA suburbs, and Sofia Vergara was given a starring role as Gloria Maria Ramirez Delgado Pritchett, wife to Jay Pritchett, who was played by Ed O’Neill.
The Role Was Written for Her
The role of Gloria was actually written by Lloyd and Levitan with Sofia Vergara specifically in mind. They knew she’d be a perfect fit for the show they were trying to build; in fact, she was the only actor to audition for the role.
Steve McPherson played a big part in making it all happen, but Sofia also deserves a ton of credit for working so hard and persisting again and again, even when things weren’t always going her way. Finally, all of her hard work was about to pay off.
A Big Success
Modern Family turned out to be a huge success for ABC, and for Sofia Vergara. The show ran for 11 seasons from 2009 through 2020, attracting millions of fans and viewers over the years and winning 22 Emmy Awards from 75 nominations, as well as a Golden Globe.
When the show started, Sofia earned a five-figure sum for each episode, and she (as did most of the rest of the cast) later renegotiated her deal to earn even more money for each season of the show, becoming hugely rich and successful in the process.
Hollywood Comes Calling
Realistically, Sofia could have happily worked on Modern Family and done no other work for the rest of her life, living off the huge amount of money she made from the ABC show. However, she was still eager to test herself in other roles and was happy when Hollywood came calling with some big-budget movie offers.
2011 was a particularly prolific year for her, as she appeared in The Smurfs and New Year’s Eve, and had a voice role in Happy Feet Two. In 2012, she appeared in the slapstick comedy movie The Three Stooges.
More Brother Trouble
Sadly, 2011 also had personal problems in store for Sofia. She had already lost one brother, and she’d done everything she could to help the other, Julio. She brought him to the US and tried to give him a fresh start and new life, but sadly, Julio ended up being deported back to Colombia in the middle of 2011.
It turned out that Julio had become addicted to drugs and was eventually arrested for drug-related crimes. In an interview with Parade, Sofia touched on this subject and spoke of how difficult it had been to see her little brother’s struggles. “To see somebody dying over 10 years, little by little, that’s the worst punishment. Now he’s like another person.”
The Highest Paid Woman
Fortunately, at least in her professional life, things were going unbelievably well for Sofia. She’d struggled through those difficult and dangerous years back in Colombia, made her way to America, earned her spot on a big show, and was about to set a new record!
In 2012, Forbes announced that Vergara had become the highest-paid woman in the world of American TV. She earned a whopping $19 million over the course of the year, and she didn’t stop there! She continued to be the highest-paid woman on TV all the way through the year 2020, when Modern Family ended.
Beauty and Influence
Not only was Sofia renowned for being one of the wealthiest TV actresses on the planet, but she was also being hailed as one of the most beautiful and influential, too. She was listed in People’s “50 Most Beautiful People” rankings and also made the list as one of the most influential Latin women in Hollywood.
She even got her own star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame in May 2015, by which time she was earning close to $30 million per year, and her acting skills were recognized with nominations for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress from 2010 to 2013.
Brands Wanted Her Too
Since Sofia had become one of the most famous, popular, and beloved women in the world of film and TV, it was no surprise that various brands came calling to ask for her endorsement or offer her work in advertising campaigns and commercials.
She was contacted by Pepsi, for whom she had done a commercial back in Latin America when she was a teen, and she also signed contracts with the likes of Rooms To Go, Head & Shoulders, and the medication Synthroid. Suddenly, Sofia was appearing absolutely everywhere!
A Difficult Love Life
Sofia has clearly had big success in the world of TV and film, but in her personal life, difficulties and challenges have appeared again and again, and this is true in both her love life and her personal relationships.
Her first big love story came with her high school sweetheart, Joe Gonzalez. Sofia and Joe met as teens, fell in love like so many young people do, and decided to tie the knot early in life. They had a baby boy named Manolo, but sadly, just two years later, they divorced.
Her Next Big Relationship
Sofia dated various other people over the years, but it wasn’t until 2010 that she had her next big relationship. when she started dating Nick Loeb. Loeb is an actor and businessman, as well as the heir of a wealthy family.
Sofia and Nick were happy together from 2010 and 2012 and then announced their intention to get married. They eventually called off their engagement in 2014, but Sofia’s drama with Nick wasn’t over, as he was about to start a very strange legal dispute with her.
The Legal Dispute
In 2015, Sofia entered a legal dispute with Nick Loeb regarding a pair of fertilized embryos that the couple had when they were together. The embryos had been fertilized via in vitro fertilization and then frozen at a California clinic.
After the couple separated, Loeb initiated a legal battle to try and get control over the embryos. It was his plan to have the embryos implanted into another woman in the future. He ended up dropping the case as it seemed to be a tough one to win, but Sofia’s fight with Loeb wasn’t over yet.
Moving the Case to Louisiana
Loeb may have dropped the case in California, but he decided to restart it in a different state: Louisiana. In Louisiana, compared to California, there’s more of a “pro-life” culture, and Loeb hoped that this would help him win his battle.
During the case, the two frozen embryos were given names – Emma and Isabella – and both Loeb and Vergara argued back and forth over their rights regarding the two entities. Sofia even reportedly had to pay some of Loeb’s legal fees and was accused of “abandoning and neglecting” the embryos. However, in 2017, a Louisiana judge dismissed the case.
A Criminal Romance
Sofia has also been linked with men who have some shady elements in their past. For instance, one of those relationships was with Chris Paciello, a convicted felon. Paciello was a successful businessman in Miami, but ended up behind bars.
Born Christian Ludwigsen, the Miami businessman owned several clubs and was pals with many stars. However, he was arrested and convicted of multiple charges, including bank robbery and felony murder. Vergara has also been linked with a Colombian drug lord named Andres Lopez.
She Could Have Been Mrs. Cruise
Another man who had his eye on Sofia Vergara was Tom Cruise, the famed actor of films like Mission: Impossible and Top Gun. According to Andrew Morton, author of “Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography,” Cruise “was auditioning” Sofia for the “part of his wife.”
Cruise brought Sofia to meet his kids and took her to the Church of Scientology’s Celebrity Center. However, Sofia was adamant that she could never convert to Scientology, due to her strict Catholic upbringing and family. Therefore, the relationship never got past that initial “audition” stage.
A Fairy Tale Ending
Even though Sofia has clearly had some tough times in her love life, we’re happy to report that things have definitely turned out well for her in the romance department, as in 2014, she announced her engagement to Joe Manganiello.
Manganiello is famous for starring in True Blood, as well as movies like the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man film. He’s also been regarded as one of the sexiest men in Hollywood, and it only took six months of dating Sofia for him to decide he wanted to marry her. The couple wed in 2015 and have been happy together ever since.
An Instant Connection
When asked about their first meeting, both Joe and Sofia say that there was an instant spark. They actually met as guests at a White House Correspondents Dinner. Joe said he “could not take my eyes off her” and asked her Modern Family co-star Jesse Tyler Ferguson for her number.
Sofia remembers being instantly attracted to Joe, too, but was hesitant about giving him her number. She joked that she thought he was “too handsome” for her. Luckily, she went ahead with it and the couple have been very happy, even thinking about having their own children someday.
Nothing But Romance
There’s been nothing but beautiful romance and wonderful stories out of the relationship between Sofia and Joe. For example, on Christmas Eve of 2014, Joe proposed to Sofia while the couple were on vacation in Hawaii for the holidays. He even asked to marry her in Spanish!
When asked, Joe said he was sure about wanting to marry Sofia right away, saying, “When you know, you know, and we knew right away – like, very quickly…. I had looked at every ring in the world, and this is the ring that I wanted. I had a whole speech prepared in Spanish. I proposed to her on one knee in Spanish with the sun going down. It was awesome.”
Their Amazing Wedding
The couple truly had a whirlwind romance. They’d only been dating for about six months when they got engaged, and less than a year after that, they made the whole thing official with a beautiful wedding ceremony in the stunning surroundings of Palm Beach, Florida.
The wedding was held at The Breakers, and photos emerged throughout the day, showing the beautiful couple looking very happy indeed. They had quite a big party, too, with around 400 guests, including many of Sofia’s co-stars from Modern Family and Joe’s co-stars from projects he’d worked on.
Honeymoon, Anniversaries, and Happiness
Ever since the couple married, fans and tabloids have been keeping close tabs on them to see their relationship evolve as husband and wife. And so far, we’ve seen nothing but happy stories and lots of love from the couple, beginning with their luxury honeymoon in Turks and Caicos.
In June 2020, the pair celebrated six years since they met, with Sofia sharing a fun photo on Instagram to mark the occasion. This has become a bit of a tradition for the couple, and they’ve been seen sharing cute photos on social media for their wedding anniversary and other special occasions like Valentine’s Day.
Her Prince Charming
It might have taken quite a while, and Sofia had to go through some tough relationships and difficult moments to get there, but she finally found her true Prince Charming in the form of Joe Manganiello. Now, it seems like she couldn’t be any happier!
The couple have since become one of the most talked-about and popular celebrity couples of all, with both of them famed for their amazing acting abilities and incredible good looks. They might just be the best-looking couple in the whole of Hollywood!
Becoming a US Citizen
Sofia Vergara arrived in the US in the mid-’90s, but she would have to wait two whole decades before she could actually call herself an American citizen. She announced her citizenship on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show.
In fact, on the show, Sofia revealed that she’d aced her naturalization test with a perfect score. Since getting her citizenship, she’s repeatedly spoken out about how grateful and happy she is, saying, “Honestly, I can’t be more thankful to this country.”
All Good Things
It’s clear that Modern Family was the show that made Sofia as big of a star as she is, and the show ran for over a decade, giving Sofia the time to build up quite a fortune. But, eventually, all good things must come to an end, and so did Modern Family.
The show bowed out in 2020 with its final episode and our last glimpse of Sofia as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett. However, that wasn’t the last we saw of Sofia, and she’s been doing plenty of other work outside of Modern Family, both on TV and in films.
Sofia’s Other Work
Fans of Sofia will have spotted her in many other shows and movies outside of Modern Family over the last decade. She appeared on Sesame Street in 2011, for example, as well as hosting Saturday Night Live in 2012 and having voice roles in animated comedies like Family Guy and The Simpsons.
In the world of movies, Sofia has also appeared in all sorts of different films, from the cult classic Machete Kills to the warmhearted comedy-drama Chef. She’s also been spotted in films like Wild Card, Hot Pursuit, The Emoji Movie, and The Con Is On.
America’s Got Talent
Arguably Sofia’s biggest role since Modern Family came to a close is as a judge on the classic TV talent show America’s Got Talent. Sofia was introduced as part of the judging panel for the show’s 15th season in 2020 and returned to the show in 2021.
Fans of America’s Got Talent have been pleased with Sofia’s addition to the cast, as she brings her own unique voice, energy, style, and vibe to the judging panel that has helped to revitalize the show and give it a whole new flavor.
Hard Work Pays Off
Sofia Vergara’s life clearly hasn’t been easy. She’s had to deal with major health problems, personal tragedies, the loss of a beloved family member, and various issues in her love life that caused more drama. Plus, building her film and TV career was far from easy.
Fortunately, she made it through all of those hardships and kept on working as hard as she could, knowing and believing that her efforts would pay off someday. And that’s exactly what happened! She is a living example of the idea that hard work and persistence can pay off, even in the face of challenges and adversity.