When people hear that Sofia Vergara is a natural blonde, they often raise a skeptical eyebrow. Even in the year 2013, the general population is still surprised to learn that someone from Latin America can be anything but a dark-haired brunette. And we can blame Hollywood for that.
Hollywood is a funny town. You either fit into a certain ethnic stereotype—based on your looks, last name or accent—or you can change anything that makes you stand out and become a role chameleon—able to transcend race and socioeconomic class. Just don’t get caught straddling both sides, which is exactly where Sofia Vergara—with her heavy accent and blonde hair—found herself 15 years ago when she tried to break into Hollywood.
A huge success in her native Colombia, Vergara had no problem making it as a blonde bombshell in everything from telenovelas to Spanish-language Pepsi commercials. However, she couldn’t land any big American roles. Since English is her second language she could only be cast as a native Spanish speaker, but her blonde locks just didn’t fit in with the image Hollywood execs had of a Latina. So she dyed her hair black, and was finally the “right fit.” She landed her breakout role as the loudmouth, cheetah-print-wearing, high-heel-strutting Gloria Delgado on Modern Family. Checking off the box for every cliché out there, she was now the poster child for a “Hollywood Latina.” To be fair, the show plays on all kinds of stereotypes—from the Broadway-obsessed gay couple with an adopted baby to the overworked housewife married to the fun-loving, spacey dad. And at least she wasn’t cast as a maid. Either way, it still makes a statement about the role Latinos are inevitably forced to play in Hollywood.
Four years later, Vergara seems to have proved her Latina-ness, and is finally starting to look more like her true self. Although she isn’t fully blonde, she’s getting there—inching her way back to authenticity, one highlight at a time. Oh the irony. Well, we couldn’t be happier. If Latinas would come together to stop changing their look to be “more Latin,” it’ll make it okay for future generations to embrace their roots—literally.