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You know you’ve become a bona-fide celebrity when tabloids start tracking your every move and style magazines dissect each item you’re wearing. Colombian thesp Sofia Vergara swanned into this rarefied stratosphere thanks to her Emmy-nominated performance on ABC’s hit sitcom “Modern Family.”

Vergara toiled 20 years in front of and behind the camera before landing this breakthrough role. She’s said to be the only Latina thesp to start her showbiz career on a U.S. Hispanic web (i.e., Univision) before crossing over successfully to the mainstream.

Given the paucity of roles for Latinas on both the big and smallscreen in the U.S., her achievement is even more notable. With naturally blond hair, a lilting accent and substantial curves, Vergara didn’t get many offers at the onset. Ironically, it was only until she went brunette and embraced the stereotypical Latina look did she start getting work.

As a founding partner, with Luis Balaguer, of production and talent management company Latin World Entertainment, Vergara produced and/or starred in a string of TV projects for Disney/ABC including “Hot Properties” and the “Desperate Housewives” Spanish-language remake for ABC and Univision. Latin World is also a co-producer of Disney’s recent remake of “The Golden Girls” in Spain, where it has topped ratings.

When “Modern Family” creators Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd began crafting the mockumentary sitcom for Fox TV Studios, Vergara was in their sights. “I didn’t even audition for it, ” she admits. They told her they wanted to create a role for her, but she was wary that her Gloria character, married to Ed O’Neill’s older, wealthy Jay, would be a golddigger. Her fears were allayed when Gloria evolved into a more nuanced character, with genuine feelings for her husband.

In Colombia, critics have taken issue with some of her lines that poke fun at the country’s past reputation as a drug- and crime-riddled nation. “She takes every opportunity to promote Colombia,” says Balaguer.

Vergara will hit the bigscreen in live action/CGI animated pic “The Smurfs” in August.