The "Latin Helen Gurley Brown," as Cristina Saralegui was dubbed, has become, as Univision puts it, "Oprah con salsa."
The Cuban-born Saralegui has been no stranger to controversy as the former editor of "Cosmo en Espanol," the Spanish-language version of Cosmopolitan magazine. She has entered the fray again, this time on television, as the host of "Cristina," a talk show produced by Univision and aired weekdays at 5 p.m. on KMEX, Channel 34.
Lest one take her for just television's latest pretty-face talk show hostess, Saralegui wants it to be known that she is a journalist and a strong advocate of Latino pride.
"Cristina" originates from Miami--Saralegui's hometown-- but some of the shows have also been taped in Los Angeles, New York, San Antonio and Chicago in an effort to reach a culturally diverse Latino audience.
Her goal is a show that appeals to the entire Latino community.
"I want to make a show for everybody," she said. "I want to stress what we have in common, instead of stressing regional differences."
She is also eager to reach bilingual young Latinos, who traditionally have not watched much Spanish-language television, and interest them in the programs. She calls them "closet Channel 34 watchers."
"I want them one day to be sitting home, flipping channels and watch one day and say 'that was good' and little by little get them to watch quality programs in Spanish," she said.
She does not want the show to be regarded as being for Cubans simply because its host is Cuban-American. Hence the effort to erase regional differences and tape the show in various cities.
Saralegui emphasizes that she is "proud to be Cuban-American, but I'm not a Cuban," and that she is assimilated, a word that has taken on a negative connotation for many Latinos. "I think the goal is to be assimilated, but still be aware of your roots," she said.
She will have a show on this very topic.
The 41-year-old Saralegui also insists that all the guests on her show speak in Spanish.
She often finds herself slipping an English word in here and there, lapsing into "Spanglish." She wants to "struggle to speak the correct Spanish" and urges her guests to struggle with her.
Saralegui makes her home in Miami with her musician husband, Marcos Avila, a former member of the Miami Sound Machine, and their three children.
She was born in Havana and came to the United States with her family in 1960. The oldest granddaughter of a prominent publishing tycoon, Saralegui majored in communications and creative writing at the University of Miami.