Sofia Vergara on the ‘modern family’ and being a global businesswoman
Sofia vergara is one of six Creative Comedy Leaders honored for VarietyThe power of women in 2021. To learn more, click here.
In 1994, when Sofia Vergara was 22, she landed an important animation concert with Univision. The show catapulted her to Miami, but she couldn’t find an agent.
“I was very young when I signed my first contract, and I did it myself,” says Vergara. “I needed a manager, and that didn’t exist for a Latina personality. It existed for Latin musicians, but not on television. “
It is clear that things have changed. Riding the wave of her success with “Modern Family,” where she played the affable Gloria Pritchett from 2009-2020, Vergara topped the Forbes list for seven consecutive years as the world’s highest-paid female actor, collecting $ 43 million last. year. In addition to being a judge on “America’s Got Talent,” she owns a multi-faceted empire that includes collections of furniture, fragrances and clothing. While public recognition of her wealth makes her a little uncomfortable, Vergara is more than comfortable talking about her hard-earned – and growing – business ventures.
“I’m super proud,” she says of her Forbes ranking. Laughing, she continues, “I feel like this is a bit of a stretch – remember I have to pay horrible taxes too. When everyone says, “Oh my God you have so much money” I always say, “No, I don’t have as much as you think. I have to pay Uncle Sam! And the managers! And the lawyers! And the agents! “
While Vergara is best known for “Modern Family,” on which she reportedly earned $ 500,000 per episode in subsequent seasons, the bulk of her income comes from her businesses and branding deals. “I did a lot with the endorsements and being a spokesperson,” she says. “It gave me a lot of money – and I made a lot of it.”
Vergara used her television platform to interact with fans, who are loyal consumers of her products, including her latest venture, a full-size denim collection included at Walmart. This follows a four-year contract with Kmart that she entered into in 2015.
Vergara’s pride in his stature as a global entrepreneur is refreshing at a time when the fight for equality persists in Hollywood, especially for women of color, who are statistically the most underpaid group in the workforce. ‘artwork.
“I sometimes have the feeling that women have this thing that they are afraid to negotiate. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and what you deserve, “says Vergara,” Because someone is going to make this money, and someone is going to take this money, and it’s got to be you. It has always worked for me.
Vergara – who left dental school in her native Colombia for a career as an actress and model – did not aspire to become an international superstar. As a young single mother, her persistence came from wanting to support her son and help his large family.
“I needed independence,” she says. “I don’t believe that money is 100% what’s going to make you happy, but I think it takes a lot of the pressure and stress away where you can focus on other things. When you worry about how you’re going to pay the rent, I don’t think you can be carefree, and I’ve always wanted that for myself.
As the entertainment industry continues to grapple with Latin American representation, Vergara recognized decades ago what many Hollywood executives failed to understand: The Spanish-speaking market is incredibly lucrative.
So in the same year she was unable to land a manager as a Univision host, she and her business partner, Luis Balaguer, launched Latin World Entertainment, where she remains a client 25 years later. Today, the agency is the premier Hispanic talent management and marketing company in the United States.
During the pandemic, Vergara remained busy filming “America’s Got Talent,” under COVID-19 protocols. The NBC competition was one of the first shows to safely resume production and bring back jobs for team members as the entertainment industry suffered layoffs and time off across the board. industry.
But with so many small businesses collapsing during the coronavirus crisis, Vergara knew she had to do something for those who had lost their livelihood. And so, she partnered with the micro-loan platform, Kiva. With an initial goal of securing $ 50 million in loans, Vergara’s partnership has helped the company raise more than $ 150 million to date.
“Women don’t spend on alcohol or gambling,” she says. “Women spend on their families and in their communities, so when you help a woman with microfinance, the money goes a long way.”
When it comes to standing up for her own name, Vergara has never put herself in a box.
“It’s important to never alienate yourself, like, ‘Oh, I’m a woman. Oh, I’m Latina. Playing all these cards, I never let it cross my mind. I present myself as an equal, so that no one ever has the chance to see me different, ”she says.
When she first moved to Los Angeles, Vergara knew she was lucky. She was thrown in a few different pilots, constantly working. And five years after arriving on the West Coast, she landed the role of a lifetime in “Modern Family.”
Vergara knows the creators of “Modern Family”, Steve Levitan and Chris Lloyd, took the risk of launching it when no one else looked like him on television. However, she admits that in her early days it was actually rare that she was criticized for her focus on auditions – but perhaps because she was strategic in setting herself up for success with parts she judged. the most realistic.
“No,” she said after being judged for her strong accent. “Mainly because I knew my limits and wouldn’t go to an audition for a NASA scientist, for example,” she laughs. “I wasn’t trying to get picked for ‘Schindler’s List’. I knew what I was going to do – where they needed someone like me.
Although she recognizes the lack of complex roles for Latin women in the ’90s, Vergara said that during her first auditions, she rarely felt like she was reading for stereotypical roles.
“I can’t complain about it,” she said when asked if she was only offered cliché characters. “There were, but it wasn’t all the time. Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek were already opening the doors and then I arrived, so it wasn’t that bad.
At the start of her fan-favorite series as Gloria Pritchett on “Modern Family,” her character sparked backlash for perpetuating the stereotypical qualities of a Latina woman.
“I’ve always laughed at it because if Gloria was stereotypical, then that’s exactly who I am,” Vergara says. “I created Gloria as a mix of my mom and aunt and the women I grew up with in Colombia – they were loud, they were super intense, they were super colorful, super crazy, doing business. from everyone, super passionate and loving. “
She continues: “If Gloria was a stereotypical woman, what a wonderful stereotype. What was wrong with being Gloria? She was fantastic. She cared about everyone, she loved everyone, even the children who weren’t hers, she always tried to help everyone.
“What annoyed me a little,” continues Vergara, “it was even the Latins who said that. It’s like please! You must be super happy that they gave a Latin woman who looks like me a major role, that she got nominated and that the series wins it all! Why are you coming to criticize? Laughing, Vergara adds, “It’s not like I’m playing a maid or a whore in East LA, I’m playing a rich American’s wife in Beverly Hills.”
In the 13 years since ‘Modern Family’ began, Vergara has seen more opportunities open up for Latin artists.
“Of course you can never compare to how a white girl or who speaks normally, but that’s how it is,” Vergara says. “We shouldn’t be sitting here and complaining, but trying to break down these walls, so they don’t try to put us in a different category. No, I can compete with them all. “
Vergara suggests that the industry is giving more opportunities to authentic behind-the-scenes voices who can write appropriately for – and hire – Latinx artists.
“It’s complicated. I don’t think it’s just white people not hiring Latina people,” Vergara says. “What we need are people who know Latinos, like writers and designers. . They are the ones who can give us jobs. Usually a showrunner or writer will write about what they know, and some of them maybe never even had a Latina girlfriend or they did. never even had any Latin friends, so when they sit down to create and write, it just doesn’t even occur to them. I think what we need are more writers and creators who create content for us, that’s the only way it’s going to be.
As Hollywood embraced more diverse voices, highlighted by this year’s Oscars, which touted the most nominated actors of color in history after the embarrassing years of #OscarsSoWhite. But for the Latinx community, Vergara says there’s a lot more work to be done.
“Little by little,” said Vergara. “It’s not great, it’s not perfect. Even with the movement that has happened now, I hope that at some point there will be a wave where more jobs can also be for Latin people.
Styling: Rhonda Spies; Makeup: Sabrina Bedrani/The Wall Group/Dior Makeup; Hair: Kelly Kline; Lead image: Dress: Dolce & Gabbana; Jewelry: Bvlgari; Cover, Earrings & Necklace: David Webb; Ring: Walters Faith