God may have blessed Sofia Vergara with great beauty, but a bunch of nuns nearly kept the world from enjoying it. While still a student at a Catholic school in Barranquilla, Colombia, Vergara wore a bikini in a soda commercial, to the horror of her teachers. "They didn't like that one," the voluptuous 39-year-old actress recalls, "but the rest of the country did." The spot led to work as a swimsuit model and then a stint as a game-show host on Univision before she moved to Miami in 1998. The next decade was busy, if not career-defining—TV guest spots, Soul Plane—until the creators of ABC's Modern Family wrote the role of Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, a feisty Latina trophy wife with language issues, specifically for her. She's earned an Emmy nomination for her part on the hit show while demolishing the myth that beautiful women can't also be hilarious—for more proof, see her in this month's star-studded New Year's Eve and next year in the Farrelly brothers' The Three Stooges. "Accents are funny," Vergara says of her calling card. "It sets me apart from the other girls doing comedy. It gives me more—how do you say?—pop-oo-laaarrrity."

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