SAN DIEGO — College students who harbor dreams of a career in the broadcast and entertainment fields are apt to follow a tried-and-true path.
First, they finish their college educations. Then, they try to get jobs in radio. Eventually, they hope to move on to television--and, if their luck holds out, the motion picture industry.
But to University of San Diego student Cristina Luria, those dreams are already behind her.
Born and raised in Mexico City, Luria landed her first role in a nationally televised Mexican soap opera when she was just 18--and looking for an alternative to secretarial school.
Parts in movies came soon afterward, with the soft-spoken Luria playing opposite such celebrated screen stars as the late Merle Oberon and popular Mexican actress Lucia Mendez.
Five years ago, she broke into radio, initially as an announcer for a Mexico City station, Radio VIP. Last September, she moved on to local Spanish-language stations XLTN-FM (Radio Latina, 104.5) and XHKY-FM (95.7), where she now doubles as announcer and production manager.
In the meantime, Luria, 34, has been hard at work on her long-delayed college education. After graduating from the University of San Diego in May with a bachelor's degree in psychology, she's spending the summer preparing for her master's in marriage, family and child counseling.
"I don't really know why I chose to do everything backwards," Luria said one Saturday between study sessions. "It must be the Basque in me: I've always been very stubborn, and I've never been one to play by the rules."
But rules, as the old saying goes, are made to be broken, and the success Luria has so far experienced in every one of her ventures makes her a true rebel with a cause.
Her first taste of show business came from her grandmother, Hilda Moreno, who in the first half of this century was a Ziegfield Follies dancer and, later, a pioneer of the Mexican motion picture industry.
"As soon as I finished high school, I was all set to go into secretarial school," Luria recalled. "But my heart wasn't in it. I wanted to do so much more.
"So my grandmother introduced me to some of her contacts, and almost immediately, without an audition, I was given a part in a television soap opera, 'La Cruz de Marisa Cruces,' which starred famous Mexican actress Amparo Rivelles."
That was in 1971. And as soon as the five episodes she had contracted for were over, she was besieged with other, even more lucrative offers.
"In Mexico, once you break into the industry and people see what you can do, you're set for life," Luria said. "And all of a sudden I was getting offers for not just television, but movies as well."
For the next eight years, Luria acted in 15 nationally televised soap operas, five Mexican movies and three Mexican-American co-productions: "Interval," with Merle Oberon; "Chosen Survivors," with Richard Jaeckel and Diana Muldaur, and "La Ilegal," with Lucia Mendez.
But by the end of the 1970s, Luria had had enough.
"I had gotten married to a businessman, and eventually I realized I couldn't do both: I had to either be a full-time actress or a full-time wife," Luria said.
So, in 1979, Luria gave up her career and settled down as a homemaker, although she also worked part time as a decorator in a friend's business and studied psychology at the University of the Americas in Mexico City.
Her show-biz heart, however, had never quite stopped beating, and within a year she had quit her decorator job and was working part time as an announcer for Mexico City's English/Spanish radio station, Radio VIP.
As the years progressed, her interest in radio grew. After moving on to a rival Mexico City station, Radio Red, she took on various free-lance assignments in the broadcast field, and later spent four years as the voice of American Airlines on nationally broadcast radio commercials.
When her marriage ended in divorce in 1983, Luria moved to San Diego and decided to concentrate on her studies.
She enrolled in the University of San Diego and, for a while, lived off residuals from her television work.
But by last summer, she was ripe for yet another change, and when she was offered an announcer job with Radio Latina, she fairly jumped at the opportunity--which she has since parlayed into her present assignments with the two Victor Diaz-owned stations.
"I was never really interested in films," Luria said. "In Mexico, too often you can become a star without any real talent.
"That's why I never really wanted to be a star--although whenever I'm in Mexico, people still stop me on the street and ask me where they know me from.
"Radio, on the other hand, does require real talent, and that's why I saw it as a challenge, something I needed to conquer. I feel the same way about earning my degrees--it's something not everyone can do.
"And that's why I'm happy, right where I'm at--even though that's something many of my fellow students just can't seem to understand."