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María Celeste Arrarás: 1960—: Journalist

Found Career In Television Journalism

Arrarás grew up in an achievement-oriented family, and earned good grades. She was also a talented swimmer, and at the age of eleven took a gold medal at the 1971 Central American Games in Cuba. After qualifying for a spot on Puerto Rico's Olympic team for the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal, the teenaged Arrarás was forced to quit when she was diagnosed with mononucleosis. Sensing a need for a new challenge for his daughter, Arrarás's father suggested that she begin writing a column for a newspaper he owned. She was pleasantly surprised to realize she liked journalism. "It was like 'click,'" she told Ojito in the New York Times. "A light went on."

Fluent in English, Arrarás attended Loyola University in New Orleans, where she earned her 1982 honors degree in communications, and began her career in broadcast journalism with an all-news station in San Juan as an anchor and reporter in 1986. Soon, Univision's New York City affiliate hired her as its news anchor, and the WXTV job in Manhattan was considered a career-making post. Yet Arrarás was forced to give up the job when station executives deemed her not glamorous enough. It was a tough lesson, she remembered during a New York Times interview. "He said, 'I've handed you a bag of lemons. You can either get sour or make lemonade.' I chose to stay and make lemonade." Arrarás went on to other slots at the network, serving as Univision's bureau chief in Los Angeles and anchor of the weekend newscast in Miami. In time she was given a co-anchor spot with a well-known Univision personality, Myrka Dellanos, on the show Noticias y Mas. That news and feature-story show eventually became the hugely successful Primer Impacto, which would launch Arrarás's career in earnest.

At a Glance . . .

Born on September 27, 1960, in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico; daughter of Jose Enrique (a university chancellor, politician, and newspaper publisher); married Guillermo (divorced); married Manny Arevesu; three children. Education: Loyola University of New Orleans, BA, 1982.

Career: Univision television network, news anchor, 1986, Los Angeles bureau chief, 1987-1990s, Miami weekend newscaster, 1987-1990s, co-anchor of Noticias y Mas, 1990s, host of Primer Impacto, 1993-2001; writer, 1997–; actress, 1997–; Telemundo television network, host and managing editor of Al Rojo Vivo con María Celeste, 2002–.

Memberships: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), spokesperson.

Awards: Genesis Award, National Ark Trust Fund.

Airing in several U.S. markets and in 15 Latin American countries, with a total viewership of 100 million, Primer Impacto offered news and entertainment stories and even an astrology report. Arrarás was the host and reported on special events, such as the U.S. presidential conventions and the Olympics; she also interviewed top political leaders of the Latin world. The show's impressive ratings brought in lucrative advertising dollars for Univision, and one prime-time special edition of the show earned the second-highest rating—ever—in the Nielsen Hispanic Index. For many, though, Arrarás was the draw, and she seemed to hit her stride on the show. She loosened up her wardrobe and her hairstyles, and began making jokes. "For the first time, I could smile on the air," she recalled in an interview with Ojito. "It was refreshing and different, and it suited my personality better." She was also becoming a well-known figure in the South Florida Hispanic community, and found that she was a news story herself: every detail of her personal life was avidly chronicled by the local press. By this time she had wed a Miami attorney and had three children. The larger national Hispanic media in the United States also liked to run stories about her, and she became a popular cover personality. Deemed a role model for working mothers, Arrarás returned after one maternity leave to Primer Impacto and the show pulled in a record number of viewers.

During her tenure at Primer Impacto, Arrarás attained an important coup when she landed an exclusive interview with Yolanda Saldivar, the woman convicted of slaying Tejano singing star Selena in 1995. Saldivar had been a business associate of the star's family, and founder of the Selena fan club. Arrarás interviewed her from prison, and Saldivar hinted that there was a "secret" behind the tragic slaying. Arrarás pursued the story further and wrote a book, Selena's Secret: The Revealing Story Behind Her Tragic Death, that was published in 1997 in Spanish and English editions. The resulting press helped land Arrarás on People magazine's annual "Most Intriguing People of 1997" list.

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