Sofia Margarita Vergara was born on July 10, 1972 in Barranquilla, Colombia, an industrial city on the Caribbean coast, as well, the birthplace of pop singer Shakira. Her father ran a cattle farm while her stay-at-home mother raised the future star and her five brothers and sisters. Vergara married her childhood sweetheart at the age of 18 and gave birth to her son Manolo Gonzalez-Ripoll Vergara two years later. After her marriage ended in divorce, she returned to school and took up dentistry at a Colombian university. With two semesters left before graduation, Vergara decided to quit dental school and, hoping to provide financially for her family, pursued a show business career. It did not take long for the beautiful actress to make her mark in her native country. She began hosting the travel and lifestyle program "Fuera de Serie" ("Out of the Ordinary") (Univision, 1995-98). The show was telecast on Univision, one of the largest Spanish-language networks airing worldwide, including the United States. She also made her acting debut in the ensemble series "Acapulco, cuerpo y alma" (Televisa S.A. de C.V., 1995). Sadly, her career was well on its way to taking off when tragedy struck Vergara's family. Her older brother was shot and murdered during an attempt to kidnap him in 1998. Feeling unsafe in her own home and country, the actress left Colombia and moved to Miami, FL with her son, mother and sister.
Her new surroundings gave Vergara a fresh start in life and an opportunity to focus on her family and career. Since Univision was based in Miami, the actress was able to land plenty of work and exposure - not only in the Spanish-speaking market but also with a more mainstream audience. She made her American feature film debut in the Barry Levinson-directed comedy Big Trouble (2002), in which she acted alongside Tim Allen and Stanley Tucci as Nina, a Mexican immigrant housemaid who gets rescued from two hit men by a homeless man (Jason Lee). The film was supposed to receive a September 2001 release, but in lieu of the September 11th attacks against the U.S., was pushed back due to a sensitive subplot that involved a nuclear device being smuggled onto a passenger plane. Vergara's next film "Chasing Papi" was far less controversial. The romantic comedy featured an all-Latino cast and involved a handsome young man (Eduardo Verástegui) who courts three women - a lawyer, a debutante and a cocktail waitress (Vergara). The actress' spitfire performance of the vivacious waitress Cici captivated American audiences and launched her crossover career.
In 2002, Vergara relocated to Los Angeles and was also diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She successfully underwent treatment but the surgery left a scar on her neck. The unstoppable actress bounced between appearing on American film and television, including a supporting role in the crime feature Four Brothers (2005) from director John Singleton, and a scorching cameo on the fourth season premiere of "Entourage" (HBO, 2004- ). The actress was also cast as one of four women - along with Gail O'Grady, Nicole Sullivan, and Christina Moore - working at a Manhattan real estate office in the short-lived comedy series "Hot Properties" (ABC, 2005). Vergara returned to Spanish-language television in 2007 with a recurring role on "Amas de Casa Desesperadas" (Canal 13 Argentina, 2006- ) an Argentine telenovela based on the ABC hit "Desperate Housewives" (2004- ). She played Alicia Oviedo, a murdered housewife who narrates the show that revolves around her four living friends. That same year, Vergara portrayed the only female member in "The Knights of Prosperity" (ABC, 2007), about a gang of New York City misfits who attempt celebrity kidnappings, including those of Mick Jagger, Kelly Ripa, and Ray Romano. The alphabet network cancelled the show after 13 episodes but gave the actress a recurring role on "Dirty Sexy Money" (ABC, 2007-09) as the love interest of a cocaine-addicted, chain-smoking New York blueblood (Seth Gabel).
Her exotic beauty and knockout curves often landed Vergara on various publications' "Sexiest Stars" lists, including a No. 62 rank on Maxim magazine's "Hot 100" and earning the nickname "Sofia Viagra." Her stunning looks caught the eye of other celebrities, including British R&B singer Craig David, yet none had more people talking than her brief fling with megastar Tom Cruise. The pair met in 2005 during a party in Los Angeles thrown by Will Smith, where it was reported that Cruise arrived with his then-girlfriend - another Spanish-speaking superstar - Penelope Cruz but left the party with Vergara. In Andrew Morton's 2008 tell-all biography Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography, the author revealed the Catholic-raised actress ended things with Cruise by packing her bags and escaping during a Scientology convention in Florida. Vergara's tough-as-nails attitude helped her essay T.T., a woman imprisoned for murdering 18 men, in the comedy "Madea Goes to Jail" (2009) from writer-director-star Tyler Perry. Like other Madea-centric films, it shot to No. 1 and grossed over $41 million during its opening weekend.
In 2009, ABC brought back the family sitcom to American television with a single camera, mockumentary-style series titled "Modern Family." Vergara was perfectly cast as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, the saucy, thick-accented trophy wife of Ed O'Neill's patriarchal lead character, Jay Pritchett. Even though the couple seemed mismatched at first glance - he was often mistaken for her father, while she was called a "gold digger" behind her back by certain family members - the show explored what makes a modern family such as theirs work, often with hilarious results. Thanks to the smart writing and talented cast, "Modern Family" was critically and commercially well received and became the top-rated comedy in its debut year. There was a less favorable reaction, however, to a controversial rape joke Vergara made on long-running daytime talk show "The View" (ABC, 1997- ). During the November 2009 episode, co-host Sherri Shepherd addressed the topic of the actress being a single mother to an 18-year-old. After a photo of Vergara and her son was shown, Shepherd jokingly asked if the star had him when she was 12, to which Vergara replied, "Thirteen. I was raped." Her answer shocked the hosts and stunned the audience who let out a collective gasp. Vergara never released an explanation for her controversial statement and instead focused her attention on persuading hometown friend Shakira to make a guest appearance as her sister on "Modern Family."
In July 2010, as she announced the 2010 Emmy nominations in an early morning press conference, she was elated to discover that she was one herself, receiving the nod for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her stellar work on "Modern Family." At the end of the year, Vergara received more accolades after earning Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress, as well as subsequent Emmy nods over the two years that followed. The statuesque bombshell cashed in on her breakout success with a slew of endorsement deals with companies like CoverGirl and Diet Pepsi, as well as a line of affordable women's clothing sold through K-Mart. Further capitalizing on her popularity, Vergara made appearances in a number of feature films, including as a demanding cosmetics executive in the animation/live action hybrid The Smurfs (2011), and lent her distinctive voice to the animated sequel Happy Feet Two (2011). She also picked up a small role in Gary Marshall's star-studded New Year's Eve (2011) and played a deadly adulteress looking to knock off her husband in the Farrelly Brothers' updating of The Three Stooges (2012), a movie that coincided with Vergara's hilarious hosting turn on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). Near the end of the year, Vergara was again nominated for a SAG Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series.