When the news broke, Darwinists wept: Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello, possibly the world’s most attractive couple, just got engaged. If the femme fatale who stars in “Modern Family” and the hunky star of “True Blood” spawn, humanity can only get fitter.
“I’ve never seen two people so truly in love,” an unnamed individual told E! Online. “The way they talk to each other, touch each other. It’s incredible.”
But if Manganiello is a prize — a ripped, 6-foot 5-inch, salt-and-pepper prize with biceps that compare favorably with Matthew McConaughey’s — he’s one that Vergara has gone through hell to claim. For before she was No. 32 on a Forbes list of the world’s most powerful women with a role on a hit TV show and a stud on her arm, she survived, in chronological order, single motherhood, the murder of her brother, cancer and Tom Cruise.
Vergara was born in 1972 in Colombia. At 17, she was spotted by a talent scout on a beach — kismet that led to a Pepsi commercial.
But Vergara’s road to international celebrity didn’t run in a straight line. At 18, she married her high-school sweetheart. At 20, their son was born — but they split in 1993.
“My life as a mother has been hard, but not a nightmare,” she later said. “I do like all working moms do. No life is perfect. What I do, it’s part of life.”
Unfortunately, even for a young actress already making headway on Spanish-language television, violence was also part of life in Colombia. In 1996, Vergara’s brother — who may have been having an affair with the girlfriend of a mob boss — was murdered as part of a kidnapping plot. The case remains unsolved.
“We come from a successful family, and he knew he was a target for kidnapping,” Vergara later said. “He always had bodyguards. Then one day he went out alone and was shot dead. I was devastated.”
In 1998, Vergara went to Miami and became a Univision star. But even as she was making headway in the United States, she was struck with thyroid cancer in 2002.
“When they tell you that you have cancer, you panic,” she said in 2010. “Now I’m in remission, and the scar doesn’t bother me. After the surgery in 2003, I had my son Photoshop a Frankenstein scar on my neck and sent it to my friends and said, ‘I’m fine, I look perfect!’ It was really funny.”
Cancer couldn’t stop her from gradually building a resume: the 2002 ensemble comedy “Big Trouble,” HBO’s “Entourage,” “Chicago” on Broadway.
But she always seemed unlucky in love. Exhibit A: The world’s most famous Scientologist. Just months before he married Katie Holmes, Cruise was linked with Vergara in 2005. Rumors circulated that she had even been vetted by the Church of Scientology.
To this day, Vergara hasn’t said much about her time with Cruise.
“I’ve only known Tom for a very short time,” she said in 2005. “It’s funny because the media creates what they want to create.”
In 2010, she said even less when an interviewer pointed out little was known about her relationship with Cruise.
“Let’s keep it that way!” she said in 2011, with exclamation marks courtesy of the Daily Beast. “I don’t want to talk about that!”
Vergara’s love life seemed to be improving after the debut of “Modern Family” in 2009. The next year, she took up with Nick Loeb, Florida businessmen, blueblood and sometime political candidate — who, six months later, was critically injured in a car accident.
“It was hard for us because it happened in the middle of the most fun, sexy time,” Vergara said. “But throughout the whole ordeal, Nick kept his sense of humor despite the situation. I don’t know if I could have stuck it out with him if he hadn’t been able to laugh at himself and be happy even under the worst conditions.”
The couple split in 2014. Then came Manganiello and, less than a year later, wedding plans.
She quickly walked that back.
“Yeah, there is such a thing as too much,” Vergara said. “Or so I thought.”