Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Skinny as a Toothpick

Sofia was born in Colombia. Her father, Julio, was a successful cattle rancher, enabling Sofia and her five siblings to attend the town’s private Catholic school.  However, her parents argued, split up, and reunited frequently in an effort to stay married for their children, creating a difficult home life of ups and downs.

As a young girl, Sofia was self-conscious of her thin frame, often wearing two pairs of jeans to fill out her figure.  For a time, she was even called Toothpick by her schoolmates.  Genetically, she inherited a mixed blessing: on one hand, she and all her siblings had type 1 diabetes.  On the other, Sofia’s eye-catching looks as she grew into herself became impossible to ignore.

At the age of 17, Sofia was walking on the beach with her family when a photographer asked if he could take her picture.  He was scouting new faces for a Pepsi commercial, but due to her strict upbringing, she was nervous about even allowing him to take the photo, let alone considering a television ad.  Upon being offered the role, Sofia received permission from her teachers to participate, and the commercial was a hit throughout Latin America.

Sofia never thought of a career onscreen.  At the age of 18, she married her high school sweetheart, and soon gave birth to a son.  She was interested in medical school, but in order to balance life as a wife and mother with a flexible career, she chose dental school instead. 

Sofia and her husband split up after three years of marriage.  Unsure of her path, Sofia couldn’t ignore that the commercial she’d made was still resulting in modeling and TV offers.  She decided to give them a try, putting dental school on hold and moving with her son to Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá.

Sofia patiently and consistently accepted work to grow her career, finding herself a natural on camera even without acting lessons.  At the time, though, Colombia’s drug cartel-related violence was escalating.  When a US-based Spanish-language channel offered her a job in Miami, Florida, Sofia jumped at the chance.  But even though she and her son were able to relocate to a safer environment, not all of her family was so fortunate.  Sofia’s older brother was shot and killed in Colombia during an attempted kidnapping.  Grief-stricken, Sofia wasted no time moving her mother, sister, and younger brother to join her in Miami.

Sofia became a fixture on Spanish travel programs and game shows.  Her younger brother, unable to cope with the death of their older sibling, turned to drugs, increasing the emotional pressure on Sofia to care for her family.  But she had a “tough skin,” as she put it, and pushed ahead not only for herself, but for everyone she loved.  Her resolve was tested again when, a few years later, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  Not even thirty years old, she had never smoked, done any drugs, and didn’t even eat red meat.  She felt completely healthy, so the appearance of cancer blindsided her.  Undergoing treatment, Sofia had surgery and began her rehabilitation.  She had come too far to give up.
Undaunted and driven, the actress made a full recovery from the cancer and went right back to work.  Her Hollywood breakthrough came when a pair of small film roles caught the attention of the ABC network, who offered her a contract.  Moving to Los Angeles, Sofia found that parking valets were consistently attentive to her, because although she was virtually unknown to English-speaking audiences, the valets knew her because they were Latin.  Even so, she wouldn’t remain unknown much longer.

After her first two sitcom opportunities fell to cancellation, Sofia’s third was the charm.  Playing a character with whom she shares a birthplace and a hilariously strong accent, Sofia Vergara became one of the breakout stars of ABC’s hit show Modern Family, for which she’s been nominated for four Golden Globe Awards and four Primetime Emmy Awards.  Sofia was also named the highest-paid actress on television by Forbes Magazine in 2012 and 2013.

Every journey in life is filled with ups and downs, and that’s ok, because if the ride is too smooth you may just fall asleep.  Try not to get locked in on the idea that there’s only one way to live your dreams.  Be prepared to adjust your course along the way.  When you pursue what you love, you’ll have the extra fortitude to push through the tough times.  The idea is to make happiness part of your journey, and not just the destination.

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams!

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