We’re accustomed to seeing hot wives paired with dumpy husbands on both the big and small screens (think Knocked Up). And then there’s the Sofía Vergara–Ed O’Neill coupling on Modern Family, which takes the trope to a whole new level of ridiculousness (no offense, Ed). But whether Vergara got her lust-worthy body through DNA or a deal with the devil, she still has to work at keeping it fit just like the rest of us.

“I’ve never been into working out,” she says. “I was always very happy with what I have.”

Oh, wait.

“I have bad knees,” she says. “Since I was young I couldn’t do the typical workouts that everybody does. I can’t do normal squats. I can’t run.”

Fine—so she has a good excuse. But even for her, excuses have expiration dates. “When I hit 40, I started seeing things I know I didn’t have before,” she says. That was two years ago.

Hang on. She’s 42!?

“People in America are very into working out and being healthy, so I said, ‘You know what? I think it’s time for me to start doing something.’ And I did.” To work around her hinky knees, Vergara took to the Megaformer, a low-impact, full-body fitness machine. “I really got into it,” she says. “With this machine, I was able to figure out a way to work out that worked for me.”

It clearly wasn’t a problem early on. Vergara was discovered at age 17 in her native Colombia, where she was cast in a Pepsi commercial and became a sought-after model and actress, landing a Univision hosting gig and finally breaking out in America on Modern Family. However, the sultry star’s journey to the top of the A-list wasn’t without its struggles; Vergara was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2000. Fortunately she’s made a full recovery—and then some.

“There were no symptoms, nothing,” she says. “I got really conscious about it and educated myself. Now I do my physical twice a year.”

As for what she finds attractive, don’t be fooled by Vergara’s on-screen spouse.

“Kind and funny,” she says. “He wants to be successful in something and has drive. Women always like those things. We all want that. It’s not a mystery!”

Yes, it is—but thanks for helping us solve it.

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