Cristina Saralegui

Cristina Saralegui
Los Angeles Times

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Cristina Saralegui
TV: South side of the 7000 block of Hollywood Boulevard
TV Host
Born Jan. 29, 1948 in Havana, Cuba

It's a rare feat for a personality to be known solely by her first name, but Cristina Saralegui has achieved it with her Miami Spanish-language talk show, "El Show de Cristina."

Before she was arguably the most well-known Spanish-language television personality, Cristina was a little girl in Cuba. Her family fled after the Cuban Revolution when Cristina was 12 and settled in Miami, where she attended Catholic high school and the University of Miami.

"It's been very hard not being able to go back," Cristina told the Los Angeles Times. "I want to visit my country. But if Fidel [Castro] can get somebody like the pope to do PR for himself, imagine what he can do with somebody like me."

Cristina began her career at the magazine Vanidades, despite having no knowledge of written Spanish (her schooling had been in English). She taught herself to write in her native language, and by 1979 she was the editor of the Spanish-language Cosmopolitan magazine.

In 1983, Cristina left her marriage to Tony Menendez, the father of her daughter Cristina Amalia. In 1986, Cristina married Marcos Avila, founder of Gloria Estefan's Miami Sound Machine. They have a son, Jon Marcos.

After a decade at Cosmo, Cristina set her sights on conquering television, launching "El Show de Cristina" on Univision. She welcomed onto her show some the most famous faces of the Latin community, such as Shakira, Selena, Julio and Enrique Iglesias, Gloria Estefan, Ricky Martin, George Lopez and Jennifer Lopez. The series tackled controversial topics including AIDS, domestic violence and sexual abuse. It received 11 Emmy Awards. To capitalize on the success of her show, Cristina started the monthly magazine Cristina La Revista. In 1992, Cristina made an ill-fated attempt at an English-language program on CBS, but it failed to find an audience.

"I'm not afraid to say that I'm a very intelligent woman," she told the Los Angeles Times in 1998. "[Latinas] cannot say that they're intelligent. They can be beautiful, but they cannot be intelligent. And they cannot brag about it and say, 'Yes, damn, I am smart and I am a woman,' because we couldn't get married.... I've been called an egomaniac so many times, that it's not funny."

Cristina's Spanish-language talk show remains a success, and she has been called "the Latina Oprah" by ABC News. Today she not only enjoys her career as a talk show host, but operates her own TV production company, Blue Dolphin Studios, and has her own furniture and clothing lines. She and her husband also founded the Arriba La Vida Foundation to promote AIDS education in the Latino community.

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