Thursday 14 December 2017

Sofía Vergara... My modern family

From a court battle with her ex over frozen embryos to going on double dates with her grown-up son, buxom bombshell Sofía Vergara is very much the millennial woman. Here, the 42-year-old talks boyfriends and babies

Sofia Vergara
Sofia Vergara
The cast of Modern Family
Sofia Vergara with fiancé Joe Manganiello
Sofia Vergara unveiling her walk of fame with son Manolo

Patricia Danaher

To describe Sofía Vergara as larger than life would be a gross understatement. Everything about her appears outsized, from her looks to her personality to her success, so when she walks into the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, I am expecting a much taller figure than the 5ft 5in woman that arrives.

The hourglass figure and Betty Boop curves are all there as she sashays in, but surprisingly she walks in that slightly stooped way that some large chested women do. She's friendly and flirty and just as beautiful in the flesh, but just when you're about to start hating her for having it all, that grating, loud voice of hers reminds you that this luscious creature has one flaw after all.

The 42-year-old is currently the highest earning actress on TV, with multiple advertising contracts, including with Diet Pepsi, Cover Girl and K Mart. She is best known for playing a high-maintenance trophy wife in hit US comedy Modern Family, but at the moment it's her off-screen drama that's attracting attention.

Following her split from fiancé of two years Nick Loeb last year, the millionaire businessman has taken a lawsuit over the future of two frozen embryos they created together. While Sofía's lawyers have said that the actress would like to keep the embryos frozen indefinitely, Loeb says he is committed to bringing them to life. "I have always strongly believed that life begins at conception and that every embryo is a life on the journey towards birth," he said in a statement released last month. "I created these two female embryos with the purpose of taking them to term and not destruction, because I have always dreamed of being a father.

"I have previously offered to waive any parental or financial responsibilities or obligations on the part of my ex, and to even give her the opportunity to be involved with the child in the future, should she change her mind."

That Sofía might change her mind on the issue seems somewhat unlikely as she is in a new relationship with actor Joe Manganiello. The pair, who became engaged after dating for less than six months last year, are looking forward to their wedding later this year. "When I met Joe, I had just come out of a relationship and I wanted peace and quiet, not to mention it sounded like such a bad idea to date the hottest bachelor in Hollywood who was four years younger than me!" Sophia tells me.

"Frankly, it sounded like a lot of work, even though he's obviously very hot. One of the good things about ageing is you tend to make better life choices, so I thought I would wait and meet an older guy who was more normal. But then, he convinced me to go out with him one time and that's all I agreed to, but when I met him and I found out what he was like, he started to look less and less handsome!

"We're hoping to get married this year and it's super special for Joe, because it's his first wedding. We're going to try to keep it as private as we can. I picked a really private place that no one can get into, but it's going to be a very big wedding. I tried to persuade him to just go to Vegas with me, but that's not really fair because he's never been married before."

Sofía's first marriage was to her childhood sweetheart in Colombia when she was 18. She has a 24-year-old son, Manolo, from the relationship, which broke up after a few years. "If we have a child together, it will not be as difficult as it was when I was 23 and had very little money," she says of the future. "Joe is younger than me and he doesn't have kids, so we're gonna try and if it happens, it happens. If not, he's going to have to just enjoy Manolo."

Sofía and her son are spectacularly close. "My son is studying film in Boston and he's moving back to LA soon, which I'm very excited about," she says. "He's very witty and creative and wants to be a director. He's very nerdy and you could ask him anything about movies. We have a great relationship. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me, having my son when I was so young. When he has a girlfriend, we double date. We go to bars, nightclubs, movies. Latin kids are different than American ones, because they like hanging out with their parents. So I see him a lot."

Though on one hand she's talking about having more babies, on the other, Sofía is aware that, at 42, she's considered ancient by Hollywood standards. "Any woman who tells you she doesn't care about ageing is probably not telling you the truth. Of course it bothers me. I wish I could be young forever, but it's a reality and you have to learn to embrace what's going on, because what can you do? If you get too crazy, it can go all the way in the other direction with plastic surgery and you look even weirder and worse. I try to take it easy. But these days, I think women are ageing better and they pay attention to working out and eating healthy and facials. Ageing is a little bit easier on women now, I think."

Sofia was just 17 when she was spotted on the beach in her native Colombia and she quickly became the face of Pepsi. Born to a cattle farmer dad and a housewife mother, she was keen to acquire a profession and formal education, so she studied dentistry for a few years before the demands of modelling and television presenting caused her to change direction completely.

It was in the era of Pablo Escobar and the peak of the drug-trafficking going on out of Colombia. Her older brother, Rafael, was murdered in Bogota during a botched kidnapping attempt. While her younger brother, Julio, turned to drugs - and has since racked up numerous related convictions - Sofía left Colombia and moved to Miami with her son and her mother.

"Colombia was in bad shape in the 1980s and 1990s and we had all the big wars with the drug cartels that made it very difficult and unsafe. Thank God a lot of it has changed now and there is lots of tourism and inward investment. When you come from a country like Colombia, people are a little bit more used to keeping going when they have challenges, because they are used to all this uncertainty in life.

"I try not to think too much about the bad things and to keep living anyway. I'm like everybody. I sometimes get sick or somebody in my family gets sick or dies or a business fails. It's about making the choice not to think about it too much and to just keep moving forward."

Making a new life in the US as a young single mother was a struggle, but Sofía refuses to play the sympathy card.

"I've had a lot of luck and I shouldn't complain. I have been able to get a lot of things out of the US. As an immigrant, you have to accept that you are not in your country and that they are kind of doing you a favour. They are opening their arms and you have to respect that and behave more. But I don't sit and dwell on the fact that I'm a minority. If you work hard and make the biggest effort, you are hopefully going to achieve what you want."

Modern Family was unique in writing the part of a Latina that allowed Sofía to unselfconsciously be herself and play up her other assets and strengths.

"When I moved here, I didn't understand why Penelope Cruz and Selma Hayek didn't change their accents. I thought there would be much more opportunities for them. I said to myself, 'I'm gonna change that. I'm going to hire someone to help me get rid of my accent' and I basically started to waste my money and time and nothing happened. I would go to auditions and all I'd think about was how to pronounce the next word and how to position my tongue. I don't have a good ear and things kept coming out wrong and I wasn't getting booked for anything. Then, one day, I said, 'I'm just gonna do my thing and if it works, it works'. And it did."

Career success didn't spell the end of Sofía's troubles - in her 30s she had thyroid cancer from which she is now fully recovered. Understandably, she is determined to enjoy the sunshine in her life these days. "There is a lot more good than bad to having the fame that I do, and I'm very grateful for the way my career went.

"I want to enjoy the money that I've made and all the events I'm invited to, despite the fact that everywhere you go, someone is pointing their phone or a camera at you. I once had someone get up on a stool and try and take a picture of me when I was in a bathroom stall in a restaurant! But, despite these kinds of intrusions I don't want to sit in my house alone. I like being with my family and friends and bringing them to things with me, where we can look at all the movie stars. I love that."

Of course, she's a star in her own right with an enviable wardrobe to match.

"I have a lot of shoes. And I have a lot of bags. I spend most of my money on those. But I can also wear a $29 pair of jeans or a $12 T-shirt. I don't invest that much in actual clothes, because I think if you have a good pair of shoes and a fancy bag, you can get away with anything."

In fact, she'd rather spend her money on something a little more unexpected.

"I'm starting to get really old now that I realise I'm starting to collect china!" she says with a trademark cackle. "I don't really cook, but one of my passions is I love to set the table for entertaining and I'll do big parties for Christmas or Thanksgiving. My son will do the cooking, which is always amazing, and I am amazing at setting the table. We have a great time."

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