The jasmine tea is served in silver pots with silver strainers. A prim woman in evening clothes plucks the strings of a beautifully carved harp. Four buttery scones sit on a white china plate accompanied by homemade jams in ramekins. Here and there, women surrounded by shopping bags pass the afternoon at high tea. Light filters through the greenery outside the tall windows. Vergara comes here often, a little spot off the hotel’s lobby known as the Living Room. We are secreted in a private corner at her usual table. On this hot July day Vergara is wearing a loose-fitting floral summer dress in black, cream, and coral by A.L.C. Beneath the four-top is a pair of classic Louboutins. “I’m always in high heels,” says the 5-foot-7 Vergara, “so that’s my uniform.” Her unusual, light-colored eyes seem to change hue with the environment—hazel in many pictures, luminous amber now. An orange Hermès bag occupies an empty chair.
Although she has dressed down a bit for our 4:30 meeting, Vergara is well known for a signature formfitting look that highlights her natural assets—a result of Colombia’s heritage of rich genetic material, she explains. Her skin is smooth, her lips full; her large smile, accentuated by the cameras in a way reminiscent of Julia Roberts’s, is a dazzling white—she laughs easily and often, her chuckle throaty and infectious. Vergara’s main style influence, she says, is a woman cut from a similar mold.
“Sophia Loren has never been a slave to fashion,” Vergara says. Her accent in person is less pronounced than the one she uses on TV. When she started Modern Family, she says, she exaggerated the accent and dyed her hair a darker shade to accommodate the sensibilities of American viewers. As the show has progressed, however, she has gone back to her natural honey color, if not to her natural speaking voice.
“Sophia [Loren] knows what looks good on her. She is always very glamorous and well put together. She dresses for her body type, which for me is very important. Sometimes people tweet, ‘ Why is she [Vergara] always in the same kind of mermaid dresses?’ Well, it’s because that’s what looks good on me. It holds my boobs. There are many dresses that are spectacular on a model, but I can’t pull them off. I wear what’s right for me.”
Usually, she says, “I go for the Italian designers because they think more about being voluptuous and sexy, and that’s what I like. I always head straight to Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana. Sometimes I am dressed by amazing designers, but the clothes are designed for girls who are taller or flatter. I have to alter them. So if I want to do something easy, I just go for stuff I know will fit.” Around her neck is a brand-new bauble from Manganiello, a black opal in a circle of diamonds he bought for her in Australia the day before her birthday. Epically, he arrived home in L.A. in time to present it to her.
Photos on Vergara’s Instagram account display the six birthday cakes brought by her friends, who are well aware of her sweet tooth. On her finger is another recent gift: a 7-plus-carat cushion-cut engagement ring she received during a Hawaiian vacation last Christmas.
For more from Vergara, including life with Manganiello and the couple's baby plans, pick up the October issue of InStyle, now available on newsstands and for digital download.