Inside Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello's Endlessly Surprising Love Story
Somehow, Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello have only been married for four years.
Not that we haven't viscerally felt each and every day that has gone by since Nov. 22, 2015, but they just seem like one of those forever couples, two people steadily marching toward each other until, at last, the timing was right and their worlds were safe to collide, never to be separated again.
"He smelled me and he couldn't help himself," Vergara quipped on Good Morning America shortly after they started dating. "That's all you need, if you want Joe."
Indeed, Manganiello told People not long before they started dating, "I'm big into smell. It's funny I got cast as a werewolf. There's something about the smell on that part of a woman's neck where it meets the jaw, ahhhh! It's heaven."
Meant to be, right?
But before these two sexy moths were compelled by each other's flames, they had to start somewhere, like normal people...
"They just started to hang out," a source innocuously told E! News in July 2014. The Modern Family actress and True Blood actor had memorably—in literal hindsight—crossed paths that May at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, back when a who's who of Hollywood went to those things.
"We're having a lot of fun," Vergara told E! News after word got out that they were seeing each other. "He's a really funny guy, which is something really important for me, and a very nice guy."
Meanwhile, Manganiello was already down for the count.
"I knew right away," Joe assuredJimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show in 2018, asked when he knew Vergara was the one.
In fact, he was traveling for work when he found out that Sofia was single, so he got her number from her co-star Jesse Tyler Ferguson and flew out to New Orleans to take her on their first date, which took place on June 15, 2014. (Hence the comfy group date back then at the Hollywood Bowl with Jesse and his husband, Justin Mikita—he was instrumental to the whole operation!)
"Our first date was her giving me every reason why it would never work out," Manganiello recalled to Haute Living. "Like, 'You're too young, you're an actor, you're this, you're that,' and she was just doing it to hear herself say it. She was trying to talk herself out of going there."
Understandably, Vergara was indeed being cautious. The mother of a then 22-year-old son, Manolo, had ended her engagement to Nick Loeb just a few months prior (though it sounded, from her explanation of what happened, that they'd been having problems for awhile—and they would go on to have more problems). And Manganiello, for all his very public hunkiness, had been leading a pretty low-key private life for such a noticeable guy—and he had just made the cover of People's "Hottest Bachelors" issue.
"She was in New Orleans shooting this movie, so I was flying back and forth—I was on a press tour, flying back and forth to date her," Manganiello recalled to Fallon. "She had just gotten out of this long relationship and so, the second time I went to go see her, I was in the airport and I noticed that People magazine had put me on the cover of the bachelor issue. 'No. 1 bachelor guy!'"
"So I grabbed it off the shelf and I threw it in my bag," he continued, "and I went to go see her. And we got to talking and I said, 'Look, I know you just got out of this long-term relationship and if you need to be single, then I understand. I'm not going to like it, but I'll get over it. But I just need to know if that's what this is. But before you answer...I want to show you something.'"
He whipped out the People and said, '"Numero uno.'" So Vergara started flipping through the magazine and told him she was checking to see "'who else is on the list.'"
Shared sense of humor, check. (Not hurting matters, Manganiello had told People, before he started dating Vergara, that she was his celebrity crush, and that was included in his "Hottest Bachelor" profile. "She was laughing at me," he told Ryan Seacreston KIIS-FM later. "She thought that I was crazy for having said that out loud or said it in the magazine, but you know, I guess it worked.")
Once he knew they were going somewhere, Joe didn't waste any time.
They moved in together that November and he proposed on Christmas Eve in Hawaii.
"I had to do it indoors because the island was infested with paparazzi," Manganiello, who before dating Vergara hadn't been used to people caring that much about what he was up to, told Haute Living. "There were paparazzi waiting for us at the airport and on the grounds at the resort at the St. Regis in Kauai. I wanted to do it on the beach but I couldn't; I had to do it inside—which was fine. We had this big bay window, and the sun was going down pink over the mountains and over the bay, and I had this ring. I had looked at every ring in the world, and this is the ring that I wanted. I had a whole speech prepared in Spanish. I proposed to her on one knee in Spanish with the sun going down. It was awesome."
He continued, "We really get along well together. Because there is a persona that people see, I think she had preconceived notions about me. I didn't know what to expect of her when we first got together either, but the beauty of it was that we save all of this stuff for our personal lives. Our friends really know who we are and it's not necessarily that person that you see walking down the street or yelling at the paparazzi, 'F-- off—I'm trying to get engaged here!'"
"I've never seen two people so truly in love," a source told E! News after the couple got engaged. "The way they talk to each other, touch each other. It's incredible."
It was incredible all right, and almost seemed too good to be true. But sometimes things are just good and true, full stop.
"I told him when I met him that he was too handsome, but now I'm very grateful that I did [go] out with him," Vergara said with a huge smile during a September 2015 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, showing off her massive engagement ring.
With the wedding just a few months away, they were in the middle of planning, still trying to keep it "a little private" for their 400 guests, including fellow stars of Modern Family and True Blood. "We said 200 for you, 200 for me, but my 200 is like family...the truth is that he gave me some of his," Vergara said.
Manganiello got to return the favor with the teasing when Vergara was on the cover of Martha Stewart Weddings, with the headline "Sofia in Love."
"He was making fun of me," she told Seacrest on the red carpet at the 2015 Emmys. "...He wanted to see what I had to say. He's like, 'Give me that magazine I have to see if you're talking good about me.'"
What Vergara did tell the magazine was this: "I want a wedding where the guests are going to have fun…It's about creating memories that you're always going to cherish. That's what's important."
On GMA, she said her husband-to-be was being most amiable with the planning. "He's a pleasure to be doing this with. He lets me do whatever I want," she said. "I show him options that of course I already want and I'm happy with, so whatever he's going to pick I already like."
He acknowledged as much to Haute Living, saying, "As long as she's happy with it, I'm happy. I'm not the kind of guy that's like, 'I need this kind of tablecloth.' We're very traditional male-female in that way. [I'll be like] what do you need me to do? I'll call the DJ."
Cue a full-on destination wedding weekend for family and friends in Palm Beach, Fla., which included a rehearsal dinner on Saturday, Nov. 21, at Café Boulud and passing out "#Jofía" t-shirts for the wedding party.
Manganiello and Vergara tied the knot four years ago today at The Breakers resort, the bride in custom Zuhair Murad (and, presumably, her Joe-approved Sofía fragrance, a mix of vanilla, sandalwood and coffee flower) and the groom wearing a John Varvatos tuxedo.
The altruistic couple asked that guests donate to St. Jude's Children's Hospital and Children's Hospital Pittsburgh in lieu of sending gifts, which couldn't help but add an extra special touch overall to the Mindy Weiss-planned festivities.
The newlyweds private-jetted off to Parrot Cay on Turks and Caicos for their honeymoon, where private villas starts at $5,200 a night and they had the biggest private pool the resort had to offer.
It was back to real life upon their return, but the fun continued—in fact, it was a must.
Chatting with Harry Connick Jr. on Harry in September 2016, Vergara said that of course all marriages take work, "but it shouldn't be, like, work." As for physical work..."I make him sometimes make me eggs in the morning. He makes them really good." Neither one of them really cook, though, she divulged, so if left to herself she'd be making nothing but simple stuff like avocado toast. Vergara's son, Manolo, does cook, she added—but he didn't get that from his mom.
But need for takeout aside, Vergara and Manganiello were bringing other important things to the table.
A year in, Manganiello told Hola! USA, "We realized very early on that we each had to put the other person's happiness and well-being ahead of our own. Once you realize that kind of trust has manifested, you hang on for dear life."
For their first anniversary, he didn't just give her a card—he wrote her a whole darn book. "It was about how we met, as well as our courting, and was about 40 pages long," he explained to Cosmo UK. "I love my wife a lot."
Meanwhile, there had been some concern about Joe after the couple slipped out of the spotlight for awhile following their nuptials.
"Sofia and Joe are still very much in love and their relationship couldn't be better," a source told E! News in June 2016. "Sofia has really been there for Joe during some difficult times."
Moreover, "Sofia is such a caregiver and loves Joe like crazy. She would do anything for him."
So just because Vergara wasn't always into dishing the sudsiest details about her love affair, preferring to stick to her story about he was almost too hot to go out with ("I'm too old now to be dealing with a guy that all the girls are, like, after him," she re-told her tale on Harry), that by no means meant she wasn't appreciating his inner beauty even more.
"I'm very lucky. I was so lucky. I must have done something really, really right in my life to get that reward," she gushed to Ellen DeGeneres ahead of their second anniversary. "I'm good, but not a very, very good person. I'm good, but he's better than me."
And now here they are, the old married couple in the Hulu commercials.
Last year they made a movie together for the first time, the sports-meets-redemption drama Bottom of the 9th—a big decision for both because, as Manganiello, who also served as a producer, put it on The Project, "You don't want to put your relationship up on the public chopping block that way."
But he had read the script, about a onetime aspiring baseball player who's released from prison after 17 years and tries to restart his life, before he even started dating Vergara—and when she read it, she cried.
"A couple of years into our relationship, she was complaining about her agents at the time not finding any good parts for her, any good roles and we didn't want to work together," Joe shared. "She opened it up and read it and I came back about half an hour later and she had tears in her eyes and said the script is 'amazing' and 'I have to do it.' And I said, 'OK, we'll figure it out.'"
Let's just say, both were glad they changed their minds.
"We got together and decided we didn't want to work together," Manganiello told Screen Rant in September, promoting the DVD release. "There had been so many vanity projects by couples... And we didn't want to do that. We didn't want to be accused of cashing in on our relationship." But, he continued, "I knew that she would be great for the part, and I thought the two of us would be great together, so I asked her to take a look at it, and if she responded to it, we could have a conversation. And she did respond to it."
Making the movie last year, "we shared a hotel room in New York, which was such an amazing experience for us," Manganiello also said. "Through the whole shoot, the two of us lived in this hotel room. She was in the other room, reading a book, and I was in the other room writing that scene for us. I knocked on the door, I came in, and we sat on chairs in the bedroom and we read the scene together. I thought, okay, that's it, it's going to work. We came in, later that week, and we filmed the scene together, and it was magical."
Couples Who Stay Fit Together
Before Bottom of the 9th came out in July, they went to Italy to celebrate her birthday, "going crazy, eating like animals," Vergara fondly remembered on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, and then they embarked on their first joint promotional tour.
And this fall, Joe came along for the lights and romance while Modern Family filmed in Paris.
That being said, they don't do everything together.
For instance, when Eddie Bauer sent Manganiello to Iceland in 2017 to athletically conquer every surface—rock, water, lava, ice, etc.—Vergara sat that one out.
"We're very much opposites attracting," Joe told Jimmy Fallon. "You know, like if I want to talk about animal skulls or mountain biking and lava fields or whatever, she'll say things to me like, 'How about I go in my closet and I bring back a tray of my earrings, and I talk to you about them for the next half an hour.'"
Vergara doesn't do sports, either, though she accepts her Pittsburgh native hubby's obsession with all things Steelers ("he's like a sick person," she once quipped on The Tonight Show), and understands that his mood rises and falls with the team's fortunes.
Asked if she watched football with him, she said on Jimmy Kimmel Live in September 2018, noting that the season hadn't been going so great, "I try to stay away at those hard times." And "when they're playing and I'm out, I check on the Instagram or the Twitter to see what happens so I'm prepared to arrive, to what I'm arriving [at], you know."
"It's to the point where my wife will say things to me like, 'The Steelers aren't a designer fashion label,'" Manganiello told AOL Entertainment. "But now my comeback is, 'Yes they are!' I come from a city and culture where people wear Steeler jerseys to weddings. It's frowned upon, but acceptable. The NFL has really stepped up their game and has made some great designs with great fabrics for everyday wear. I can now wear it every day and always have something new to wear."
For the record, Vergara maintains that "Steelers" is not a designer label.
She has been to Steelers games, however, where she enjoys the hotdogs and the people, which include some of the players and team owners, all of whom treat Joe like the member of the family that he is. Jimmy asked Sofia if she knew what was happening on the field.
"No, I don't," Vergara acknowledged. "And I don't really care. I care because that means my week is going to be good or bad, but that's all I really care. I refuse to watch it on TV."
That's OK, he'll sneak a Steelers pen into her bag or swap out her coffee-to-go into a Steelers thermal mug. Vergara even has a nail file sporting the Steelers logo. "Better that he's addicted to that than something else," she added on The Tonight Show. "He's at home with his whole outfit, not gambling somewhere in Vegas with strippers. I shouldn't complain, right?"
Does Joe speak Spanish, elaborate proposal speech aside? "No, he doesn't, thank God," she told Kimmel with a laugh. "Oh, you know, sometimes it's good to have secrets."
As of then, Manganiello had not yet been to Vergara's native Colombia—the two times she's been since they were together were for a commercial and a funeral, so quick trips that occurred while he was working. So that trip is still in their future. And whatever adventures they do share, it'll be because they both want to be there, experiencing it together.
"He always, actually, tells me, he's like, 'You know, one of the things that draws me so much to you is that you were, like, the first woman I went out with that is really, really, like, independent,'" she shared with ET in 2017. And Joe appreciates that she has her own pursuits.
"He loves it. He supports me in everything," Vergara said. "I think he realizes how important it is for us to have opportunities, for women to have our own thing going."
Especially if dressing up in head-to-toe Steelers gear or playing Dungeons & Dragons is not her thing, the way, say, getting dressed up for the Vanity Fair Oscar Party is. That's right, Joe Manganiello is a hard-core fan and, in case you couldn't tell from his social media accounts, an official D&D consultant.
"All my friends play. All these huge directors, comedians, actors? We all play," he wrote in an op-ed for NBC News. "My trainer of the past eight years, who is a CrossFit champion—6'2, 245 pounds of solid muscle—is the most hardcore encyclopedia of fantasy novel information you'll ever find."
The actor continued, "I now work as a consultant for Dungeons & Dragons, which is the job that I wanted as a kid, and, as a result of that relationship, I wrote some material for their adventure module that will get released next year. Plus, the game is how I got cast in my latest movie, Rampage." He bonded over D&D with the film's director, Brad Peyton, who's interested in making a D&D movie (as is Joe, big time), and Peyton mentioned he still needed to cast a role in his ape-run-amok blockbuster that also starred Dwayne Johnson.
However, Vergara can hang at Comic-Con, and she was there with Manganiello last summer.
She was also on hand to shower him with support when he was honored with the Spirit of Sobriety Award at the Brent Shapiro Foundation for Drug Prevention's 13th annual Summer Spectacular Event in September 2018. Attorney Robert Shapiro, his wife Linell and their son Grant started the foundation in honor of their other son, Brent, who died at 24 of a toxic mixture of drugs and alcohol.
"Sixteen years ago…I crashed and washed ashore on the banks of sobriety," the introspective actor told the audience at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. "When I was growing up, when I thought of an alcoholic, I thought of some toothless old guy in a trench coat in a basement somewhere. I just never thought that would apply to me. That type of stigma kept me from getting the help that I needed when I knew I needed it."
After the event, Manganiello wrote on Instagram, "Thank you to Robert Shapiro and everyone at the #brentshapirofoundationfor this honor and thank you to my beautiful date..."
And he appreciates to no end how much Vergara has been there for him.
"The biggest adjustment in marriage? Coming to grips with the idea that someone who is not related to you could possibly love you that much," he told Cigar Aficionado last year. "She was it for me.
"People say things like, 'Marriage and relationships are work.' But it's not. Life is hard. Having somebody to help you deal with it is the greatest thing that ever happened."
(Originally published Nov. 22, 2018, at 3 a.m. PT)
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