The Trials She Weathered
Sofia Vergara’s path from the troubled city of Barranquilla, Colombia to being the highest paid actress on American television was not an easy road to travel. Her life has been beset by tragedy time and again, but Sofia has consistently managed to rise above it without forgetting where she came from.
Booking Modern Family
Though Sofia had been in the entertainment industry for nearly 20 years, she didn’t hit celebrity status until she was cast on the hit ABC sitcom Modern Family as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, whose rags to riches life story was loosely inspired by Sofia’s real life. It proved to be a match made in heaven, but sometimes it’s hard to shake off the past, no matter how far you’ve come. For Sofia Vergara, it all started back in Barranquilla, Colombia.
Close To The Land
Sofia was born in 1972 in Barranquilla, Colombia to a family of cattle farmers. Though the profession wasn’t exactly glamorous, it provided a stable income for the Catholic family of eight. Sofia’s mother was able to stay home and take care of the children, while her father managed the ranch. Though Barranquilla was thrown into chaos by the violent activity related to trafficking that was springing up, Sofia led a relatively quiet life, attending a private English-Spanish school and never dreaming of stardom.
Unfortunately for Sofia, she was raised during one of the most violent times in Colombian history. Due to her family’s relatively secure means, Sofia largely avoided becoming caught in the crossfires of the ongoing conflict between paramilitary groups and the weak Colombian government. The instability of the country surrounding her kept her strongly tied to her Catholic faith, which almost kept her from becoming an actress at all. Sofia always had an inkling, however, that her family’s security would one day make them a target.
Vergara never had aspirations to become a performer, choosing instead to study dentistry at university following high school. Though she always knew she was beautiful, and often wavered as to her feelings on her naturally ample chest, Sofia worried that a career focused on her looks would be considered immodest by the Catholic church. It was her luck that she was discovered on the beach near her hometown when she was 17, but the deeply religious Sofia initially turned down the offer.
The Nuns Approved
When Sofia was offered an appearance in a racy Pepsi ad in 1989, she was afraid of how the sisters at her strict Catholic school would react, but her mother encouraged her to take the offer. Sofia seemed to be aware of how people perceived her based on her looks, but her mother often argued that her curves were a gift from God. While Sofia’s commercial became an international hit across the Latin world, Sofia soon returned to a more mundane life.
It’s quite possible that had Sofia not married her high school sweetheart when she did that she never would have entered show business. Vergara was married at 18, but did not give up her studies just to follow in her mother’s footsteps. A year later, she gave birth to her son, Manolo, when she was only 19. Becoming a mother at such a young age deeply affected Sofia, who became determined to protect her son at any costs. Happiness, however, would prove to be elusive.
It’s not uncommon for high school couples to split up while they’re in university, no matter how convinced they are that they will stay together forever, but for Sofia Vergara, even marriage vows and an infant son couldn’t keep her first marriage intact. She and her first husband, Joe Gonzalez, split in 1993, when Manolo was only two years old, leaving Vergara a 21 year old divorcée who hadn’t yet finished her college degree. Sofia needed a way to earn an income immediately, and left her studies behind.
Taking To The Capitol
Sofia moved with Manolo to Bogota in order to pursue the higher paying modeling jobs that she continued to be offered. The instability in Colombia had continued to increase throughout her life, and she was determined to do whatever she needed in order to provide for her young son. Protecting him became the most important goal in her life, so she took work that would be the most likely to ensure their safety. With any luck, it would take them out of danger.
Telenovela’s Come Calling
Vergara hadn’t intended to pursue a career as an actress, but she didn’t hesitate to take a role in a telenovela from Mexico, Acapulco, cuerpo y alma. The role got Sofia noticed by other networks, putting her on their radar as a television personality. It was often grueling for the young mother to balance her work with taking care of her son. The support of her family was tantamount to Sofia’s success on the small screen, but she would soon be pushed to protect them too.
Escape To Miami
Though Pablo Escabar may have been eliminated by 1993, Colombia in 1994 was still subject to the whims of chaos and violence that had characterized life there for over 30 years. She was offered a chance to host a travel show for Univision, based out of Miami. A friend shared, “She saw it as a chance to give her son a better life. She said yes immediately.” The threat of violence was too great for Vergara to stay in Colombia now that she had a way out.
Protecting The Family
When Sofia moved to the United States, she was able to bring her mother and sister along with her and her son, giving them sanctuary in Miami. Meanwhile, Sofia’s popularity among Spanish speaking audiences continued to grow, and she moved from hosting a Spanish language travel show to a Spanish game show. Latin audiences loved her, but she was otherwise largely unknown to American audiences. With a comfortable life in Miami, Sofia could hardly have asked for more. Then, tragedy struck.
He Slipped Through The Cracks
It was 1998, and Sofia was making a new life with her family in America, but she hadn’t had the chance to bring everyone else over yet, nor did they all want to go. Everything changed in the blink of an eye when her brother Raul was killed in an attempted kidnapping. Sofia was absolutely devastated. Still, she had to go on providing for her family, but the investigation of his murder was incomplete, leaving many questions unanswered.
Caught By The Throat
Vergara had hardly recovered from her family tragedy when she was hit with more bad news. In 2000, doctors surprised Vergara with the news that she had thyroid cancer. Vergara was lucky they had caught it early, quickly undergoing surgery and treatment with radioactive iodine. While she managed to receive medical clearance shortly after, she came through the ordeal only to find her love life in shambles. Despite her professional success, Sofia was suffering privately as she was hit with one problem after another.
Close To Her Roots
Perhaps she was drawn to the life of a mob boss because it reminded her of the rampant crime in Colombia, or perhaps something of his dazzling lifestyle seduced her. Somehow, Vergara managed to get involved with Chris Paciello, who owned several nightclubs popular with a number of big name celebrities, including Madonna and Jennifer Lopez. Paciello’s connections to the mob were no secret, however, with a list of misdeeds so long that he sported the nickname, “The Binger.”
In the aftermath of Sofia’s health scare, her then boyfriend was charged with a murder that took place during a 1996 burglary gone wrong that had taken place in Paciello’s native Staten Island. His bail was posted for $15 million, which Sofia offered to him using her house as collateral. Though he pleaded guilty and collaborated with prosecutors by giving them important names, Paciello was still sentenced to six months in jail, which effectively ended his romantic relationship to Sofia.
She Liked Them Bad
Paciello’s eventual imprisonment still wasn’t enough for Vergara, whose taste for bad boys still hadn’t been satisfied. Her career was continuing to gain steam, though she was just barely beginning to break into the English language market. At the same time as she started earning small roles in English TV shows and movies, she began a relationship with former Colombian kingpin, Andrés López López. The relationship lasted long enough for him to mention his love for Sofia in a 2004 interview.
ABC Comes Calling
Sofia’s life changed forever when she booked a guest role on My Wife and Kids. ABC executives liked the Latin beauty so much that they immediately signed her to a long term contract with the network. Sofia decided to move her and her son out to Los Angeles so she was better positioned to work on bigger budget acting projects. Sofia once shared that she had such a following among the Latin community that the Latin valets were more excited to meet her than Justin Timberlake.
Turning Down Tom
Sofia’s incredible looks had heads turning in Hollywood from the minute she arrived, included Tom Cruise’s. He pursued her relentlessly, and to some, it seemed that he was “auditioning” Sofia to be his new wife. Despite the numerous playdates he set up for his kids and Manolo, there was no way the Catholic Sofia would ever accept Scientology in her life, which sent Tom packing. While she may have dodged that bullet, there was still more trouble ahead.
Extending Her Hand
No one who knows Vergara would ever question her commitment to her family. Following the tragic loss of her older brother, Sofia again reached out to try to help her family by bringing her younger brother Julio to Miami. He had his own demons to wrestle with, and there was only so much Sofia could do for him. Try as she might, she couldn’t keep him out of trouble. Her heartache with regards to Julio would only continue to grow.
Vergara’s break out role as Gloria Delgado Pritchett on Modern Family changed her life forever. The producers were so keen on casting Vergara that they had written the role for her, incorporating many elements of Vergara’s tumultuous past into the character’s story. The minute she was in the spotlight, Vergara began to earn both accolades for her hilarious performance as well as criticism for playing to stereotypes. Unfazed, Vergara said that the inspiration for Gloria comes straight from her aunt Gloria Vergara.
Trouble With Julio
In 2011, Sofia Vergara was riding high. She had multiple Emmy nominations under her belt and was involved with a new beau, business man Nick Loeb. Her brother Julio, however, just couldn’t keep himself out of trouble. After multiple stints in rehab and a number of arrests, the United States decided he just wasn’t worth the trouble. There was nothing Sofia could do to stop him from being deported. Vergara had to find ways to cope with the devastation she felt.
Another Rocky Relationship
She may have been in love, but her relationship to Nick Loeb was volatile from the start. The couple were involved on and off for four years, and there’s been no end to the trouble that arose during their hard times. One friend shared with reporters, “They would fight all the time…It was very uncomfortable to be around them sometimes. She’s feisty, he’s dorky — they were like oil and water.” Vergara, however, is loyal to a fault, even to her own detriment.
Even in spite of Paciello’s convictions, Sofia found it hard to completely cut ties with her former flame. Her loyalty came back to bite her when Nick Loeb got into a fight with the security at one of Paciello’s nightclubs in Miami when the couple were attending a New Year’s party. Vergara attempted to cut ties with her ex in the aftermath, but it was too late for her current relationship. The pair’s arguments only continued to worsen.
A Near Miss
Sofia was in the trance of those blissful early days of her new relationship when she got a call that stopped her in her tracks. Her newest beau, Loeb, was in the hospital. Sofia rushed over to his bedside, fearing the worst. He had been in a car accident and was seriously injured. Sofia prayed with all of her might that he would recover, and thankfully her prayers were answered. The pair had only been dating for about six months at the time.
The Onion Huckster
It never helped Nick’s case that he seemed to compulsively promote his product, namely Onion Crunch. Sofia was absolutely furious to discover that on one occasion, Loeb had snuck his snack food into a White House dinner in order to try and promote it. The friend shared, “The arguments just accelerated after that. He felt humiliated, and she felt that he was trying to control her.” Still, she couldn’t seem to kick the “Onion Crunch King” to the curb.
It Couldn’t Last
Loeb proposed to Vergara in 2012 at a Mayan ruin in Mexico, but even an engagement couldn’t save their rocky relationship. The pair split for the last time in May 2014 after dating on and off for nearly four years. Sofia didn’t seem too cut up by the split, as she stepped out with Joe Manganiello less than two months later. Sofia’s happiness with Joe was in stark contrast to the chaos she experienced in all of her previous relationships. Finally, the bad boy streak was broken.
The Embryos Strike Back
Sofia may have moved on to a more stable partner, but Nick wasn’t quite done with her yet. Sofia suddenly found herself embroiled in a legal battle with her own embryos. The pair had created a couple of embryos via in-vitro fertilization in 2013, following their engagement.The embryos were then frozen, with the intention that the couple would implant them in a surrogate. After their split, however, Loeb decided he wanted to go ahead with implanting the embryos anyway, with or without Sofia’s consent.
The Woes Of A Housewife
Sofia’s life may have stabilized considerably since she finally left Loeb in the dark, but there are still perils to being as famous as she now is. Just a couple of weeks ago, Teresa Giudice of Real Housewives fame began bad mouthing Sofia to the press for not taking a picture with her at a party. Giudice claims her publicist told her to take the photo. In the aftermath, Giudice is quoted as saying that Sofia should be nicer because she’s an immigrant.
On Top OF TV
Still, Sofia is undeterred. She has maintained her status as the highest paid female actress on television for the last few years, and jokes about spending her money on lavish handbags, which she used to say her son can sell if she’s ever short on his college tuition. Despite her intense fame, Sofia is still a family girl at heart, using her success to lavish gifts and vacations on her extended family. Though it hasn’t been easy, Sofia has the last laugh.