“Ditzy”, “sexy”, “trophy wife” -- these are words that have been used to describe Gloria Delgado, Sofia Vergara’s spunky character in ABC’s “Modern Family.” The series dominated the 64th Annual Emmy Awards on Sunday -- leaving with four trophies -- but Vergara, one of the few Latinas nominated this year, left empty handed for the third consecutive year.
Nominated for 'Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series,' the Colombian actress with a heavy accent, voluptuous figure, and light-hearted sense of humor, has transcended her role on the ABC sitcom, becoming an iconic celebrity and spokesmodel for global brands like Cover Girl and Pepsi, whose commercials often benefit from her sexy-yet-funny persona.
“There might be a tendency for people to think that Sofia is playing a version of herself, that this is just an easy role for her to play because ‘Oh she might be like that in real life’,” said Maureen Ryan, The Huffington Post TV Critic and Peabody Awards' board member, to HuffPost Latino Voices. “And I think that’s not true at all. She’s playing a character, but I think there’s less recognition of that for someone who fits into a commonly expected cultural stereotype.”
The 40 year-old star’s work recently earned her Forbes’ title of television’s “Best Paid Actress.” This commercial success, despite the elusive Emmy win, questions how comedic personas like Vergara's are viewed by the industry and audiences alike. The actress has also received Golden Globe and Screen Actor Guild Award nominations for her role as Gloria.
“Sofia created an updated version of Charo, the ‘cuchi-cuchi’ 60s and 70s sexy and ditzy Latina persona,” Felix Sanchez, chairman and co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA) told The Huffington Post. “While we applaud her creating a comedic brand that works for her, unfortunately Hollywood looks at Sofia and tries to find replicas of her, believing that Valkerian Latinas are authentic Latinas, not realizing that her act is a shtick and not an example of the U.S Latina actress they should be casting for dramatic television and film roles.”
But Hollywood may not be the only one getting the wrong impression of what an “authentic” Latina or Latino is like. Earlier this month a study released by the National Hispanic Media Coalition and Latino Decisions, an independent polling firm, found that widely held positive and negative stereotypes of Hispanics by non-Hispanics reflect the images and characters reproduced by news and entertainment programming.
While Vergara’s character, Gloria, can be seen as a stereotypical take on Latinas in the U.S., Sanchez insists that the role is not “meant to be reflective of Latinos in our culture at large.”
“It would be unfortunate if people assume that this is what most or all Latinas are like because this person in a high profile show might fit in with their preconceptions,” Ryan adds. “That’s why I kind of loved Ugly Betty, because it showed a wide variety of characters and a wide variety of personality types. And reinforced the idea covertly and overtly that there’s no such thing as to what Latinas are like.”
Ryan also notes that overall, "Modern Family" is a series that “plays into preexisting ideas” concerning all its roles, not just the Latina character. The Huffington Post contacted Vergara’s representative, but received no comment as to the impact the actress’ persona may have outside of the show.
Nevertheless, citing the launch of networks like Mundo Fox and El Rey Cable, Sanchez believes that change is coming for Latino actors and actresses that wish to expand the types of roles available to them.
“I would say under the current framework, Latinos are not getting a fair shake, but right around the corner are new media platforms that are going to shake it up for both Spanish language TV and English language [networks].”