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FAST TRACK: Up and Comers in Arts and Entertainment : 2nd Iglesias Finds a Voice--as TV Host

March 29, 1994|CLAUDIA PUIG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

What a choice.

Would it be better to trot around the globe interviewing celebrities or to pursue a glitzy life in Madrid as the wife of a wealthy young architect?

For now, Chabeli Iglesias--the 22-year-old daughter of dashing Spanish balladeer Julio Iglesias--has decided. She's left her husband of six months at home to host "The Chabeli Show," an irregularly scheduled series for the Spanish-language Univision network (seen locally on KMEX-TV Channel 34). The program seeks to give viewers a glimpse into the lives of such Latino celebrities as opera star Placido Domingo, Mexican soap star Bibi Gaytan and crooner Juan Gabriel.

The most recent show took Iglesias to Mexico City, Los Angeles and New York's Spanish Harlem for a piece on Erik Estrada, the former "CHiPs" actor who has turned Mexican soap star, and to Venice and the Swiss Alps for a report on Marco Antonio Solis, lead singer of the Mexican musical group Los Bukis.

But don't expect her career to have the longevity of Barbara Walters.

"The travel is so hard on a person that I don't think you can keep that way of life for too long," Iglesias said. "I really miss my husband. I want to continue doing this for maybe two or three years, then I'm going to retire for a while and get pregnant and have babies and enjoy life with my husband."

Iglesias' desire to conduct behind-the-scenes interviews springs from her own life in a celebrity household. "For people in Spain, she's like Princess Caroline of Monaco," said Fernan Martinez, executive producer of "The Chabeli Show." "The Iglesias family is like royalty."

"I've always been in the public eye and it was very difficult for me to show people I was just a simple human being," Iglesias said in a phone interview from the Univision offices in Miami. "I've always thought that everybody in the public eye has that problem. Most (interviewers) try to find the wrong side of artists, instead of the good side. People don't relate to the artist in his everyday life. He seems untouchable. But (following him as he goes about) his day, he seems more human. It's a whole chapter of his life, rather than just talking about how many records he sells."

Chabeli--a nickname; her real name is Isabel--has the cool manner and MTV sensibility to attract the prized younger Spanish-speaking audience. And her famous name is a draw for older fans of her famous father.

Indeed, she seemed a perfect package to Univision executives who launched "The Chabeli Show" late last year.

"She's there because she's pretty and intelligent and Iglesias," producer Martinez said. "Pretty and intelligent is not enough. That last name is magic for the Hispanic world. For all the world. You say 'Iglesias,' and immediately you think romance and charm.

"Chabeli has the smile and the big eyes of her father," Martinez continued. "She's very natural. When she makes a mistake, she laughs. She's kind of a mixture of Cindy Crawford with her 'House of Style' on MTV and Maria Shriver on her NBC show 'First Person.' "

Whether it's because of Iglesias herself, her famous guests or the glamorous locations, the show seems to be working. Her first installment last December was U.S. Spanish-language television's highest-rated special of 1993.

The programs air every month or so; the next one, featuring interviews with Brazilian superstar Xuxa and boxer Julio Cesar Chavez, is scheduled for April 6.

Iglesias doesn't kid herself about how she landed the job.

"I know I got it from being whose daughter I am," she said. "I'm realistic. I think that helps a lot. But I had also created a name for myself in Europe."

After attending private schools in London, Paris, Washington and Miami, Iglesias--whose mother is former model Isabel Preysler--became a well-known model herself and made television appearances in Spain, Mexico, Argentina and Venezuela before debuting on Univision.

"I decided I wanted to do TV when I was 20," she said. "I didn't know exactly what kind of TV, but I always thought that I would like to interview people in their homes."

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