Whether it’s Gloria Delgado’s accent, her giant personality, or her role within her family, the Modern Family character is and always has been unapologetically herself. Played by Colombian actress Sofia Vergara, Gloria isn’t ashamed to be who she really is, especially when it comes to thick, Colombian accent. Modern Family is my comfort TV series, but it’s had a much more profound effect on my life than just entertainment: it helped me accept my accent as a Latina, non-native English speaker. I owe it all to Gloria, and to Sofia.
As the name suggests, Modern Family portrays a family that, despite its differences, loves and supports one another more than anything. It’s the perfect feel good series, even though it started out by portraying Gloria as the stereotypical Latina — hot-headed, spicy, and superficial — it made vast improvements in the portrayal of its characters throughout the 11 seasons it was on air. When the show first began, Gloria was recently married into a white American family. A good portion of the first few episodes showcased how hard she’s been trying to be accepted by her husband’s children, in part because of her age and in part because of where she’s from.
Despite being made fun of constantly, Gloria has never been ashamed of herself, serving as an inspiration to those of us in a similar situation. As a Brazilian my first language is Portuguese, but I’ve been studying English for years. I’ve never been shamed or made fun of for my accent, but that’s not stopped me from feeling self-conscious. I love my culture. I’m so proud of it, and I believe that my accent is such an important part of my identity, as it is to Gloria. Sofia’s character broke barriers for Latinx people on TV that others haven’t yet been able to do; even though Latinx representation in the media is thankfully increasing, there aren’t many Latinx characters with an accent. Amy Santiago and Rosa Diaz, from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, are both Latinas, but don’t have an accent. Same for Veronica Lodge from Riverlade, and Cisco Ramon from The Flash. I love watching all of those characters, but none of them make me feel more seen; none of them represent me like Gloria does. I see so many of my aunties in her. I see myself in her. I, too, snap right back into my first language when I’m mad or scared, and I understand how it feels to wear your culture on your sleeve wherever you go.
Mirroring real life, Sofia Vergara has also been made fun of for her accent. In 2017, Ellen DeGeneres thought it would be a good idea to “teach” English words to Sofia on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, despite the actress being fluent in the language for years. In 2020, clips from that same interview (among many others) started resurfacing amid Ellen’s cancellation. As viewers were criticizing both Ellen and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Sofia stepped in to explain that she was “always in on the joke” and never felt like a victim. But even if she was in on the joke, the rest of us with accented English were not, and it was painful to watch. In the sixth season of Modern Family, Gloria finally asks someone, “Do you know how frustrating it is to translate everything in my head before I say it? …Do you even know how smart I am in Spanish?” Seriously, we’re over here being fluent in two (or more) languages, and in my eyes, that’s nothing but a win.
By not being ashamed of herself, Gloria taught me that it’s more than okay to have an accent. It’s part of our cultures, and of who we are. I hope that every Latino, Latina, or Latine has someone to look up to, and to inspire them like Gloria has inspired me. And to Sofia Vergara, thank you for portraying such an important character. I owe so much to Gloria.