3 minute read

Cristina Saralegui: 1948—: Journalist, Talk Show Host, Publisher, Author

Started A Career In Magazines

Born into a media family, Saralegui fancied herself a natural communicator. She attended the University of Miami, majoring in mass communications and creative writing. Her graduation plans were thwarted when her father lost most of his money in a bad business deal, an occurrence that forced her to drop out. Saralegui was nine credits short of her degree, but he had decided that it was more important for her brother, Paxti, to go to college and he could only afford to send one of them. "He called me up and he said, 'Look, as a Cuban father, I have to send your brother to college. He's going to have to support someone someday, and somebody's son will support you.' That's called machismo," she told National Public Radio.

Determined to overcome this crippling sexism, long rooted in the traditions of the Latin culture, Saralegui vowed to work twice as hard to prove herself. She ended up taking a $40-a-week job in the photo library at Vanidades, one of the magazines started by her grandfather. "At the time it was a huge challenge," she recalled in her 1998 autobiography My Life as a Blonde. "I had to teach myself to write in Spanish. Having attended high school and college in the United States, and receiving all my formal training in English, I was more fluent in the English language." By 1973 she had acquired a staff writing job at the Spanish-language edition of Cosmopolitan, but soon quit to give newspaper journalism a try. After a short stint at the Miami Herald, where she realized that daily journalism wasn't for her, Saralegui went back to Vanidades. Within a year she was asked to take over a small magazine called Intimadades, which soon began to outsell Vanidades. By 1979 she received the top post at Cosmopolitan-en-Español. "I was terrified," she recalled in an interview with the Boston Globe. But her mission to liberate Latin women paid off. "In ten years under my direction Cosmopolitan became the second most important magazine in Latin America. We passed Good Housekeeping. We left the housewives behind."

At a Glance . . .

Born January 29, 1948, in Havana, Cuba; married Tony Menendez (divorced 1983); married Marcos Avila; children: Cristina Amalia (Titi), Jon Marcos. Education: Studied mass communications and creative writing at the University of Miami. Religion: Roman Catholic.

Career: Vanidades Continental, Intimidades, and Cosmopolitan-en-Español, editor-in-chief, 1979-89; Blue Dolphin studios, founder; El Show de Cristina, executive producer and host, 1989-01; Cristina la Revista magazine, creator, 1991–; host, radio show Cristina Opina and weekly prime-time show Cristina: Edicion Especial; author, Cristina! My Life as a Blonde, 1998.

Awards: Union of American Women of Puerto Rico Merit Award for Women's Rights, 1981; Legendary Woman of Miami Award, 1983; Greater Miami Chapter, Women in Communications Award, 1986; State of Florida Hispanic Heritage Award, 1990; Emmy Award, The Cristina Show, 1991, 1992; Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. Surgeon General, 1992; Council on Women's Issue Bio Award, "No Nonsense American Women", 1995; Congressional Record from the Hon. Robert Menéndez of New Jersey, 1996; AmFAR Research Foundation Honor, Los Angeles, 1997; TV's Most Glamorous Hispanic Woman Award, Glamour en Español Magazine, 1998; Elena Mederos Award for Leadership Contribution to the Hispanic Community, National Association of Cuban American Women of the U.S., N.J. Chapter, 1998; National Leadership Media Award, AIDS Action Annual Leadership Awards, Washington, D.C., 1998; Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for Her Outstanding Service to the Community, 1998; Community Service Award, National Council of La Raza/Kraft Foods ALMA (American Latino Media Arts), 2000; Gracie Allen Tribute Award, 2001; numerous others.

Adddress: Office—Blue Dolphin Studios, 2520 NW 112 Avenue, Miami, FL, 33172.

During her ten years at Cosmopolitan, Saralegui's personal life suffered. In 1983 she divorced her husband, Tony Menéndez, a real estate agent and firefighter, and slipped into a depression. Married seven years, they had a daughter, Cristina Amalia. But it was the combination of her success, her absence at home, and her husband's machismo that destroyed the marriage. "We were divorced because he wasn't ambitious and I was, and it really bothered him that I worked so hard and aspired to so much," she wrote in her autobiography. In an effort to cheer her up, longtime friends Gloria and Emilio Estefan invited her to tour with their then unknown band the Miami Sound Machine. She found her soul mate in the group's pony-tailed bass player Marcos Avila, and they married soon after.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Paul Anthony Samuelson (1915– ) Biography to Bessie Smith (1895–1937) BiographyCristina Saralegui: 1948—: Journalist, Talk Show Host, Publisher, Author Biography - Started A Career In Magazines, Made Career Move To Television, Sought To Educate Hispanic Community