1 Be persistent. After oozing sex appeal on Univision, Vergara headed to Hollywood with producing partner Luis Balaguer, but she kept striking out. When an executive told them George Clooney did seven pilots before ER, Vergara's response was: "My (breasts) are about to hit the ground, and I don't have the luxury to wait for nine pilots. I need something now," Balaguer recalls. Two weeks later, she got the Modern Family script.
2 Have a backup plan. Vergara isn't banking on a long acting career. If it ended tomorrow, she'd be set, thanks to her business ventures and endorsements. "I always wanted to do a makeup line, and now I have CoverGirl. I wanted to do a clothing line because people are always asking me what I'm wearing. ... I wanted it to be affordable. In five or 10 years, I don't have to be there working -- I can do it from my house," she says. "I never went to acting school. I never thought I'd be an actress. If the acting went away, it wouldn't be as bad for me."
3 Diversify. She's the saucy-but-sweet Gloria on Familyyet plays a mentally unstable mother in Machete Kills. Anyone who has seen the trailers knows exactly how Vergara's character, a brothel owner, mows down her enemies. "I'm doing action and shooting, and it's funny at the same time. I'm sure I'll come out looking crazy. My son saw me in the trailer in the movies and said, 'You look scary.' My son and my fiancé always tell me that I have to play the role of some psychopath because they say I am scary when I get mad," she says. "This role had a lot of anger, and I love (it)."
4 Be blunt. It's "amazing ... the things that she says that are so charming coming out of her mouth that might not be if someone else said it," says Family creator Steve Levitan. It's from "a very good place." Indeed, ask Vergara about some of Hollywood's most verboten topics, and she happily expounds on them. Has she had any work done on her face? "Not yet. I can't really do Botox because of my faces I make on the show. They don't want to mess with that," she says, sighing. "I haven't been in the sun in years with my face. My body, that's another age. No one told me to put sunblock on!"
5 Set your Priorities. For Vergara, family comes first. She "always puts motherhood in front of the businesswoman and the actress," Balaguer says. Vergara's son, Manolo, is 22, and she's engaged to Nicholas Loeb. She might have more kids, despite a diagnosis of and treatment for thyroid cancer in 2000, as she had her eggs frozen. "I thought I was done, because my son is 22 and I am 41. My fiancé is younger than me by three years, and he doesn't have kids. So it's always an option," she says, though she acknowledges that it would be "hard to start again ... at 41 -- I know what all that means. ... But I can't be selfish. I took my eggs out. You never know at this age. It can go bad very easy."
6 Work the red carpet. Her penchant for low-cut frocks by Vera Wang and Zuhair Murad that skim her derrière and showcase her décolletage has launched a fashion empire. For years, she says, women approached her to ask who made her clothes, which inspired Vergara to give them what they wanted, based on her own very firm sense of proportion. "I can't wear skimpy things without a bra. If I wear something too loose, you don't know what's going on here," she says, gesturing to her chest, "because of the boobs. I learned to dress for my body. When I was younger, I would wear a miniskirt and (show) cleavage. Now if I wear a miniskirt, it's with dark tights." She concedes she's not a "real designer." "The designers came with me to my closet, and I showed them everything, what I like. I wanted to do things I would wear."
7 Don't let success go to your head, because there's always someone younger and hotter and thinner on the way up. "I've known I'm pretty, but I've known there are prettier girls behind me," she says. When asked if people have trouble taking her seriously, Vergara says that even though she can play down her smarts in interviews, focusing instead on her love of eating -- as she chows down on cookies -- and her appreciation of her new "baby," a Givenchy tote, "I have to say, I've never had a problem being stereotyped." Maybe, Balaguer says, it's because she has always kept her eyes on the prize. "The last six years before Modern Family, it was always between her and Jennifer Lopez or Jessica Alba, and they would always win. It was really challenging," he says. "It was humbling for her. You go from being the best-paid woman in Hispanic television to auditioning with 30 other girls. Sofia never complained to me."
8 Take your job seriously, but have fun. After the Emmys, Vergara tweeted a photo of herself shaking her posterior and jokingly teaching pint-sized twerker Miley Cyrus the move's origins: her native Colombia. And when she went to Austin to shoot Machete Kills, director Robert Rodriguez told Vergara to sound like his mother, who has a shrill scream. She obliged. And she had no qualms about some of her, ahem, other hardware. "The bra that fires, she just went for it. She could channel anything you wanted," he says. "She comes to life when you turn on the camera."
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