updated 05/05/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 05/05/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT
VIP treatment: Vergara's eight years on the Spanish-language TV network Uni-vision have made her a huge star in the Latin community—especially among male viewers. "They know me no matter what they do," she says, "whether they're businessmen or busboys." Leaving the L.A. hot spot the Lounge recently, Vergara says she got valet priority ahead of fellow clubber Justin Timber-lake. "There might be much bigger stars," she says, "but my car is always the first one they'll get."
Hot stuff: "She's a goddess," says her Chasing Papi costar Eduardo Verastegui. "My uncles, my father, friends are like, 'You lucky son of a b----! You got to work with her!' "
A brother's death: In 1998 Vergara's brother Rafael, then 27, was kidnapped and murdered in Bogotá. "In Colombia any person who has money is a target for kidnapping," she says of her wealthy family. "It's a reality."
Battling back: Three years after Rafael's murder, Vergara—the daughter of a homemaker and a businessman—was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Today she is in remission but bears a hairline scar across her neck. "I knew I'd beat it," she says.
Her main man: Although she has dated Enrique Iglesias, these days Vergara, a single mom to Manolo, 11 (her son from a three-year marriage to her high school sweetheart), splits her time between Miami and L.A., where she shuttles Manolo to school every morning. "Even if I am out the night before," she says, "I will just put my hair up and go in my pajamas."