Feb. 16, 2011 — -- She steals scenes in an award-winning network comedy. When she steps on a red carpet, all heads whip her way. But even now, with the spotlight firmly (finally) fixed on her after twenty years in the entertainment industry, Sofia Vergara shuns the Hollywood lifestyle.
She refuses to get up at dawn to work out.
"I can't wake up at four in the morning to exercise," she said in a recent telephone interview with ABCNews.com. It was 8:30 a.m. in Los Angeles; early in her book. "If I have to be on the set at six, I work out on the weekends."
Also, she eats.
"I don't cook at all," she said. "I always have these Colombian things shipped to me, arepas. You can put anything on top of them -- cheese, meat, butter, salt. I always have them in my refrigerator and when I really want to feed myself I go for them."
Vergara is a brunette in a town of blondes, a bombshell in a town of twigs, an almost-40 in a town of perpetual 20-somethings. Then, there's her accent. The "Ai, Jay!" that's made her beloved among fans of "Modern Family," the Emmy-winning ABC sitcom that pushed her into the big leagues and brought her first-time Golden Globe, Emmy and SAG nominations last year.
In short: she seems different. Which is why it's somewhat surprising that she stars in an ad campaign for diet Pepsi's new "Skinny Can". First, she's full of curves, which the print ad fails to show. Second, she doesn't do the whole diet thing.
But Vergara has a soft spot for the soda. At age 17, she made her first foray into show business by filming a Pepsi commercial in her native Colombia.
"I was at the beach with my family, and some casting people were walking around and they asked my mother, and she said, 'Yeah, yeah, let's do it,'" Vergara said. "I had never done anything. I was in Catholic school. I was afraid because I knew the nuns would not allow me to do that, to be in a bathing suit on the beach. But then I got it after the audition."
South America lapped up the 30-second ad of a bikini-clad Vergara bouncing across the beach. (As for the nuns, they discovered the commercial on Vergara's "last day, my senior year. They couldn't throw me out of school.")
Her path from there to Hollywood wasn't straightforward. She nearly graduated from dental school before scoring major modeling and acting jobs in Columbia; she got married, had a son, and divorced before settling stateside. She picked up a handful of guest-starring gigs on television and in movies; she landed the role of Gloria, "Modern Family's" vivacious vixen, in 2009. Now, Vergara has officially "arrived" in Hollywood, but she's still making herself at home.
"You have to realize that I'm not very normal," she said. "Because of how I talk, it's even harder. They don't write for women like me. It's so hard to find a role like Gloria. There aren't many like that for girls like me."
"Girls like me" -- that is, 38 years old, naturally blond, with an unapologetically authentic Colombian accent. Years ago, Vergara gave in to the industry demand to look like a stereotypical Latina and dyed her hair dark. There's more pressure these days.
"But in a way, it's a good pressure," she said. "It's a reality that for you to be healthy, you need to be at the right weight. You are what you eat. It takes effort. I'm not trying to be skinny like a supermodel but I don't want to be overweight. I want to feel good and I want to look good."
The most "Hollywood" addition to Vergara's life: personal trainer Gunnar Peterson, who has toned the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Angelina Jolie.
"I'm not very athletic," she said. "I can't play any sports. I don't even think I know how to run. At the beginning of this year, I said I was finally going to hire a trainer so I can do it more often. So I hired Gunnar. Literally, I have to go through is place to go to the set. If I don't have an early call, I'll go."
Lately, Vergara's been busy jetting between New York City, where she's filming the movie "New Year's Eve," and Los Angeles, where "Modern Family" shoots. Then there are the appearances on late night talk shows (Jay Leno's this past Monday) and award show rounds (The Golden Globes last month). On top of that, spending time with her boyfriend, businessman Nick Loeb, and her 18-year-old son.
That she shot an ad for the company that put her on the map in the middle of all of this seems fitting.
"When they asked me to do this, I thought it would be really nice," she said. "It's like how I got my start.
"Of course, at 17 it was regular Pepsi. Now it's diet."