To understand the Sofia Vergara of 2015, you have to start in 1998. More than a decade before “Modern Family” got its start, Vergara approached her business partner, Luis Balaguer, with an idea: a calendar. About a dozen photos later the two had created a product that really took off — especially among Hispanics living in the U.S. — and would ultimately launch Vergara’s career.
“It became a huge difference for us at the time, and financed many of our crazy dreams to move to Los Angeles, look for the American dream and crossover in Hollywood,” Balaguer says.
Vergara and Balaguer’s business venture, Latin World Entertainment, has been the premier Hispanic talent agency since its inception in 1994 when the U.S. Hispanic entertainment and television industry was in its infancy. Before LatinWE started, Balaguer says there were no managers or agents to mediate between talent and executives, so early negotiations were difficult. “You had to do what the network asked you, and if you didn’t, you would be fired,” he says.
LatinWE’s clients are protected and well-represented, he says. In addition to Vergara, the company represents some of the largest stars in Spanish-speaking television like Alejandra Espinoza who will host a new reality show on Univision called “La Banda,” and others who have crossed over to the general market like Rafael de La Fuente (“Empire”).
“We knew and understood the U.S. Hispanic market at that time,” he says. “And that’s what kept us going.”
The agency also formed sponsorship deals between talent and brands that could boost visibility and pull in additional revenue. Vergara, who is not only the founder, but also the agency’s most successful client, has amassed her fortune with a long list of endorsements including clothing, makeup and fragrance.
LatinWE’s ambition shows no signs of stopping. The company teamed up with Reese Witherspoon’s new shingle, Pacific Standard, to produce “Hot Pursuit,” (pictured) which bows May 8, with Vergara and Balaguer serving as executive producers. They are finalizing a multi-year project to launch a coffee blend and building Vergara’s brand overseas. Balaguer notes millions of Chinese watch “Modern Family” each week.
LatinWE’s mission has remained consistent since the company’s humble beginnings. “It’s about fixing the industry and making the industry better,” he says. “We showed them how big and rich and involved this market is.”