Nevermind being the best-paid actress on TV; Modern Family’s Sofía Vergara is a tycoon taking the world by storm.
Before she vogue mexico produce a kind of 90s cover with karolina kurkova forum buzz even sits down at the restaurant table, Sofía Vergara says, “I have to be careful what I eat because they’re freezing my eggs!” in a voice so vibrant and vigorous and oblivious of TMI that even as I dive right inside my bag for my voice recorder (Waitwaitwait, Sofía! One second!), I expect the vast room to fall silent and become a rapt audience for the rest of lunch. But it does not. Nobody knows who she is. Her office chose the Belvedere, a huge, Ritz-like dining room inside the Peninsula Beverly Hills, in the expectation that this old-fashioned, patrician, clubby kind of place would likely be empty. But it’s been raining all week in Los Angeles, and the place is packed with scores of (mostly) women, many in their 80s and 90s, many wearing fabulously expensive estate jewelry and most attired in those odd traveling clothes for very wealthy people that you see in upscale Swiss spas (comfortable fit, elastic waists, but superluxe and made of cashmere, padded silk, and alpaca). Maybe they’re Daughters of the American Revolution planning fund-raisers or maybe they’re discussing disbursements of grants for LACMA or the LA Opera. The room is loud with the clarion voices of entitlement, but otherwise it is a perfect place to entertain an exuberant Latina.
Of course, when she first arrives, on heels as high as car jacks but sans any leopard print, I feel a small pang that she isn’t Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, but luckily she talks like her (though she doesn’t look as much like her as she used to). Vergara’s hair is uncurled and natural and way blonder than it was; she has on a pretty embroidered blouse in soft white silk and light-blue jeans, and her heels are those suede Prada ones that look as though they’d had brass nails hammered into them. (“Surprisingly comfortable,” she says.) But to return to freezing these eggs: She tells me it is a process she is starting around now and that “you have to put first some peels, and then after——” What kind of peels, pray? “Hormone pills,” she says, “and then after that it is hormone injections.” Aww, does she have to have all those hormones tucked into her? She says yes; at her age, “they want to get as many eggs as they can because usually you produce them but they’re not good. They have to be perfect, perfect, perfect ones. My boyfriend is 37, younger than me, never had kids. So.”
She pulls out her cell phone to display the current baby picture: her 21-year-old son, Manolo González, who was born during her brief first marriage back home in Colombia (only 20-some years ago, but in that period convent-educated schoolgirls like Vergara were expected to be married pretty young—and she dutifully was). Manolo is cute. He is not named—as I’d hoped—after the distinguished shoe designer but after one of the characters in Brian De Palma’s Scarface. “I looooved that movie, and I was in looove with Steven Bauer,” she says (Al Pacino played Tony Montana, and Steven Bauer played Manolo—“Manny”—his sidekick and betrayer), assuring me that he was then very handsome and “superhot.” So she asked her husband, Could they name the baby Manolo? “And he was like, OK. And then my son, when he grew up, he was like, Oh yeah, Mom, how amazing you named me after a drug-dealer junkie!” She laughs so hard she forgets to eat. “And I was like, shut up, Manolo!”
Does he know, I wonder, that she is planning to displace him? “Yes!” she hoots. She laughs all the time; it’s rather enchanting. “You know, sometimes he used to scream at me when he was younger: ‘Why can’t you have another baby, so you can stop focusing on me?’ ”
Her engagement ring is a square diamond as big as the Ritz (with a triangular diamond shoulder on either side). It takes up the whole bottom joint of her ring finger. “I love it,” she says, “because it’s big enough. If it had been bigger, I couldn’t have worn it every day.” She laughs. “And if it had been smaller, I wouldn’t have liked it. It’s heavy, but I don’t take it off even to work out.” She has a Sofía Vergara for Kmart ring with pavé “diamonds” on another finger, and that’s big enough as well—and I know it’s Kmart only because she said it was. It is businessman Nick Loeb she is engaged to, as the world knows. And what happened New Year’s, I ask her? She rolls her eyes, launches into a lengthy diatribe against online gossip Web sites, takes a breath and moves on.
None of the lunching fund-raisers appear to recognize her. All the waiters do, so we become part of a scene from Gosford Park, with a lot of worshipful staring from the poised waitstaff drinking deep of her fabulousness. None of them speak to her except to say (mostly in Spanish) such things as “Your coffee, ma’am,” apart from one who finally seized his chance when he brought my bill. Looking directly at Sofía and speaking in English, rather politely, he called her “Ms. Vergara” and thanked her for what she has done for the Spanish people. She grinned and talked back to him in Spanish, so he died and went to heaven right in front of us.
Is life always like this for the woman who plays the sassy bombshell in Modern Family? Yes! It’s unbelievable. She completely gets why Latin Americans—especially men—want to admire her as one of their own; what knocks her sideways is the recognition she gets from a regular crowd in the street. Wives push their husbands toward her so they can say to her face the lustful things they say to their TV set. “They want to embarrass them! So of course I am on their side.”
The power of Vergara’s television personality is so huge (and Modern Family is so very funny) that I almost hesitate to ask her about Colombia—lest she start rhapsodizing about her “leetle village” as she does to her on-screen husband, Ed O’Neill. I already know she was born and raised in Barranquilla, a cosmopolitan port city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, and she already has her defense against Hicksville handy: “I didn’t live in any small town—it was a beeeg city near Miami,” she says. “Two hours and fifteen minutes’ plane ride. It’s closer to do Miami–Barranquilla than Miami–New York. Closer! We go back and forth to Miami for weekends or to buy a wedding dress.”
Her parents paid for her education at the Catholic Marymount School in Barranquilla. It was run by American nuns, she says, though the teachers were all Colombian, “and they had bad accents,” she adds with a tragic face. “And when you learn a language, you mimic the accent, so....”
She has struggled with her heavily accented English, she laments. When she moved to L.A., she decided to take “accent classes, you know? Like speech classes? To see if I can fix it a little bit. But I spent so much money, so much time, and then when I would go to auditions I was always thinking about the pronunciation because you are supposed to put the tongue like this or—you know—like this, so then I would forget to act, and I was not getting any jobs, because all I wanted was to say the words right. And then one day I said, You know what? That’s it. If I can’t get a job with my accent, then this is not a job for me.”
And with that decision, Sofía Vergara parlayed her talents into the hugely successful business that she is now—the highest-paid woman on TV in 2012. Reporters from Forbes magazine estimated that she picked up million from fees and endorsements in 2012, thereby beating Kim Kardashian ( million) to the top spot and leaving fellow-Latina Eva Longoria ( million) languishing at number three.
She was seventeen when she started her career in Colombia, with a TV commercial for Pepsi. “It became huge in Latin America,” she says, “so after that they always tried to hire me for everything.” Why did it become huge? “Well,” she says, “I was seventeen, and it was a very cute commercial. And you know they do always a big furry dog, and I was in a bikini and I was like—jumping. On the beach. With a bikini.” Me: “And was Pepsi not there before that? Were you introducing Pepsi to Latin America? “No,” she says. “But it was a beautiful commercial. They did a good job, it was in the ocean, it was funny.” And sexy. Yes.
“The key for my body is tailoring,” she says emphatically. “I spend more money on tweaking and fixing the clothes than the actual clothes.” From when she was young, she knew to buy a shirt that was big, “that would fit me perfect here” (the bosom) “but that was huge here” (the waist. She has a fabulously teensy little waist, as you can see from the picture). “So I have to go to the tailor, and he would sew a seam in a little bit because my size is difficult. It’s not that it’s bad, I am not complaining—it’s just that once you know how to tweak it, you look like you are well dressed. For example, jeans that go all the way up here. So I tell the guy, OK, you know what needs to be done; I don’t even have to try them anymore. He knows to do it so when I sit the jean doesn’t go all the way down. It’s just learning what you have to do. Not for something simple like a T-shirt, but for a piece that I like, I always have to have it altered.”
There are designers—not many—that she can run to in an emergency. For example, Dolce & Gabbana “if I don’t have time to alter something. You see, you go and there is always something, it’s black and it stretches. Like that’s it, perfect. Roberto Cavalli: He knows how to do like Dolce & Gabbana. But there are many designers that I cannot even fit. All the dresses that I wear for the red carpet, I have to build them inside.” It’s getting easier now that designers are making dresses especially for her (Vera Wang; Donna Karan, who made the white dress she wore to the SAG Awards). But it will never be simple to dress an hourglass shape in an age of skinny. “I mean, a normal girl will just put the dress on and leave. I need them to be like an armory. My dresses are like a work of art inside because, you know, I am 40 years old, I had a baby, and I am a 32F boob. And they are real still. When they are fake, you take the bra off and they are still there, perfect! Me—no, so I have to bring them up! I have to build the dresses up to here so that the bras—ach, it’s a whole, der—ugh—tchah!” Yes, Sofía, I know the syndrome. And the solutions, which are (1) spend money on corsetry and (2) keep a tailor instead of a pet.
She learned early which dresses have (“What is the word?” Me: “Potential”) because her family was comfortable enough that seamstresses would come to the house and fit dresses for parties or weddings.
When she’s done with lunch, she is keen to take me to her office, so I can watch what she does with her other hat on. It’s hard to explain in a word: tycoon, maybe? Mogul? It is an amazing afternoon. We drive in her vast black extended Range Rover (“I loooove English cars; I get a new one every year”) to LatinWE (the W standing for “world” and the E for “entertainment”), where she has a meeting planned with Luis Balaguer. He is a very grounded and easy Madrileño who has known her for 20 years and has been her business partner for sixteen, and is cofounder, with her, of LatinWE. They met when the 20-year-old Colombian divorcée, wannabe celebrity, and newly single mother of a toddler realized she needed a manager. LatinWE is a fairly astonishing phenomenon.
Running the meeting was the president of the company’s licensing arm, Nancy Overfield-Delmar, who introduced a raft of people with clothes rails and boxes and bags. Vergara looked at samples of Kmart apparel that she’d seen last fall and asked for changes to be made: bras and shapewear, T-shirts and tops, dresses, leggings, jeggings, biker jackets. She picked up almost every piece, tucked and fiddled with the drape and hang on tunics, complained about the thickness of seams on shapewear. Then she started on jewelry, trying rings, complaining about the cheapness of the “diamonds” in the Kmart jewelry range, threw things out, left others in, while the manufacturer displaying it groaned and reminded her it was selling for.99. She pored over tray after tray of Mother’s Day necklets (“Thees is heeeedious. Thees is beautiful”). I suddenly realized I’d been there all afternoon, and before we all moved on to sunglasses, shoes, bags, and small leathers, they got a sweet boy to drive me back to the hotel while everyone else continued with the meeting.
She says that “all the things that I dreamed in my career to do, all the businesses that I have, like my Kmart collection, like all the endorsements that I have [for Diet Pepsi and CoverGirl] and you know all the charities that I wanted to fund—it’s all because of Modern Family. So I am taking advantage while I can, to make money like I can now, because why not? It’s part of my job, doing what I like.
“I never wanted to be an actress [just] to be an actress,” she says. “I wanted to be an actress or a celebrity with a business. For me, I never even knew I could be funny or act.” She laughs. “I went to dentist school.”
The Hispanic market is worth trillion, I am told. Me, I don’t know how many zeros are in a trillion. But I bet Vergara does.
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