Here’s The Authentic Life Story Of Griselda Blanco—The Subject Of Netflix’s Hot New Series

Sofia Vergara plays the 'Godmother of Cocaine' in the upcoming series

‘Queenpin. Innovator. Mother. Killer. Griselda is a woman of substance.’ That’s how the creators of Netflix’s new drama about the life of ‘The Godmother of Cocaine’ Griselda Blanco would describe her. And these are the same people who brought us Narcos in 2015, so we trust that her story is in safe hands.

Rumour has it that Pablo Escobar once said, ‘The only man I was ever afraid of was a woman named Griselda Blanco.’ She created one of the most profitable cartels in history and apparently had people murdered if she didn’t like the way they looked at her. But showrunner Eric Newman says he hopes to ‘humanise the complex character’ by bringing her story to life, with Modern Family‘s Sofia Vergara at the helm.

But who was the real Griselda Blanco? Was she really involved in criminal activity from the age of 11? How has Sofia Vergara transformed into her—and why are Griselda’s family reportedly suing? Here’s everything you need to know about her ahead of the new series.

Who was Griselda Blanco?

Griselda Blanco was a drug lord operating in Miami in the ’70s and ’80s. She was born in Columbia and apparently was involved in violent crime from the age of 11, when she helped kidnap the son of a wealthy family who refused to pay the ransom, and then fatally shot him.

When she was still a teenager, she married a small-time criminal and the couple had three children together. They later divorced and it’s thought that Blanco ordered his murder several years later. She then married drug trafficker Alberto Bravo in the 1970s, which is how she got into the cocaine trade.

The couple lived in New York and began smuggling cocaine into the US. In 1975, Blanco faced drug charges and was forced to return to Colombia. She started to think that her husband was stealing her money, and allegedly ended up killing him in a shoot-out. She was nicknamed the ‘Black Widow’ and reportedly had her third husband killed as well.

By the late 1970s, Blanco had moved to Miami and earned another nickname – ‘The Godmother of Cocaine’. The city entered a period of brutality and violence, with Blanco allegedly trying to wipe out her competition by having people shot by people on moving motorbikes. She became one of the world’s wealthiest drug lords. According to reports, she smuggled more than three tonnes of cocaine into the US every year, netting some $80m each month.

Fearing for her life, Blanco moved to California in 1984. The following year she taken to New York to face her 1975 drug charges and was found guilty. Blanco was sentenced to 15 years in prison and reportedly continued to run her empire from inside. During this time, she faced additional charges – including being implicated in more than 200 murders –  with prosecutors hoping she would get the death penalty.But in 1998, Blanco pled guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence and she was released and deported to Columbia six years later. Apparently, there she retired from a life of crime, but in 2012 she was shot by a gunman on a motorbike as she was leaving a butcher shop in Medellin.She has since inspired several books, films and TV shows. Blanco was featured in the documentary Cocaine Cowboys (2006) and served as the central figure in Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustlin’ with the Godmother (2008). And in 2024, she is the central character of Netflix’s new series, Griselda.

How has Sofia Vergara transformed into Griselda Blanco?

When you picture the notorious drug trafficker we’ve just described, Gloria Delgado-Pritchett from Modern Family probably doesn’t spring to mind. But Sofia Vergara has been transformed in newly released pictures of her as Griselda Blanco.

The actor has spoken about her transformation process and explained that it went beyond facial prosthetics. In fact, she sustained a back injury after moving her body in an unnatural position for six months to prepare for the role.

‘I was trying to change as much as I could without looking like I was in a Halloween costume,’ Vergara told Digital Spy. ‘I would wear a bra that was minimising me and holding my butt so that it wouldn’t move like a Latin girl.’

She continued, ‘I put myself in a body position for six months that, the only time that I didn’t go to work was because I got up in the morning and my back, I couldn’t get up because I was at 50 doing this weird position walking and smoking.

‘Now I think I have a problem with a disk from walking like that,’ but joked that it was ‘worth it’.

‘I’m not gonna be saying that in 10 years with an operation, but now I have to be very careful, I have to go to physical therapy every once in a while because if I forget about it, it comes back. It was fun. I had never done that. But it was difficult.’

When is Griselda on Netflix?

Griselda landed on Netflix on 25 January – with all six episodes available to stream.

Who else stars in Griselda?

Sofia Vergara stars alongside Alberto Guerra, who plays Dario Sepulveda, Blanco’s third husband. The series also stars Martin Rodriguez, who plays Blanco’s top hitman Jorge ‘Rivi’ Ayala-Rivera, Juliana Aiden Martinez who plays June Hawkins, Vanessa Ferlito who plays Isabel and Christian Tappan who plays Arturo Mesa.

Also appearing in the show will be Alberto Amann as Alberto Bravo, Blanco’s second husband, Karol G as Blanco’s friend Carla, Julieth Resrtrepo as Marta Ochoa, Maximiliano Hernandez as Papo Mejia, Paulina Davila as Carmen Gutierrez, Camilo Jimenez Varon as Rafa Salazar, Gabriel Sloyer as Raul Diaz, José Zuniga as Amilcar and Diego Trugillo as German Panesso.

Why are Griselda Blanco’s family suing Sofia Vergara and Netflix?

In the latest update, the family of Griselda Blanco are reportedly suing both Sofia Vergara and Netflix over the new series.

Her children, who are acting as representatives of her estate, allegedly claim that Vergara’s portrayal of their mother is ‘unauthorised.’ According to the complaint, the use of their own images and likenesses in the show without their permission violates the rights of Griselda’s children.

It’s been reported that court documents were filed with the aim to ‘prevent the release’ of the show, allegedly asking for an injunction to block the release. It appears this injunction wasn’t successful, however, given Griselda is currently available to stream.

Reports said that Griselda’s son, Michael Corleone Blanco, has been conducting interviews about his mother since 2009 in the hopes of one day developing it into a production. He alleges that his interviews were initially pitched to Netflix who, after initially showing interest, decided they did not want to use any of his details.

According to TMZ, Michael has ‘learned this new Griselda show does, in fact, lean on a lot of his anecdotes and material.’ After alleging he never received any money, he and his siblings are now suing Netflix for reportedly ‘ripping off their family story.’

Grazia has contacted Netflix for comment.

Why was Griselda Blanco arrested?

On 17 February 1985, Blanco was arrested in her home and was found guilty of manufacturing, importing, and distributing cocaine. She was also charged with three counts of first-degree murder and spent two decades behind bars.

When was Griselda Blanco killed?

Griselda Blanco was shot dead while leaving the butchers in Columbia in 2012. She was 69 years old when she died.

Griselda Blanco’s net worth

Apparently, Griselda Blanco’s net worth peaked at $2bn during her lifetime. As mentioned before, at one point she was making $80m every month.

Griselda Blanco’s children

Griselda Blanco had four sons – Michael Corleone (named after The Godfather character), Uber Trujillo, Osvaldo Trujillo and Dixon Trujillo. Uber, Osvaldo and Dixon were all killed making Michael Corleone her only surviving son.

Nikki Peach is news and entertainment writer at Grazia UK, working across pop culture, TV and current affairs.

This story first appeared on GRAZIA UK