In 1960, the Saralegui family fled the island of Cuba and, like many others, started over in Miami.
Daughter Cristina was 12.
Today Cristina Saralegui has her own talk show. "Cristina," which premiered on Univision Network in 1989, is the No. 1 rated talk show on Spanish-language television and airs in 18 countries.
Cristina, who also publishes the monthly magazine Cristina La Revista (and like Little Richard needs no last name), lives with husband Marcos Avila and their three children on Palm Island, Fla. Avila, who co-founded Miami Sound Machine, is Cristina's manager. (Best friends Gloria and Emilio Estefan live on a neighboring island.)
Thirty-seven years later, life is sweet for Cristina.
Question: Where do you get all this energy?
Answer: You have to eat right. That does not mean that I don't drink Cuban coffee. That does not mean that I do not have two cigarettes a day--that's what I'm down to. I drink wine--you know, I'm normal. But I do eat well. Gloria was the person who actually got me interested in a change of diet. Not for pretty reasons but for energy and endurance and to be sharp.
Q: And eating well is . . .
A: You don't have to diet, you know. Just change your eating habits. I have fruit for breakfast, one slice of toast and Cuban coffee. For lunch, a salad. And dinner, I will have fish or lean beef or turkey or chicken with any type of vegetable. I drink a little skim milk. And the last thing I kicked were the potatoes and the pasta.
Q: Not that.
A: I know. I love pasta too. And my husband is a pasta lover, big-time. But you know what? Since we stopped doing that, we felt completely different. My mind is clear for work. The other way, I got bloated. My stomach would get gas. I don't get that anymore.
Q: My jeans let me know about potatoes and pasta.
A: You know what? That's what I want. I want to be part of you people who can actually tell if you have gained weight or not just by your jeans. I have to weigh myself because I have a big tendency to gain. And I'm starting to get menopause, so my changes are starting.
Q: And that can be embarrassing.
A: I'll be standing in the middle of an AIDS Walk in Washington, trying to speak to a million people and there it comes! I'm like joking about this, but I'm going, "Why am I drenched? What is this?"
Q: When did you get serious about working out?
A: Eight years ago when I started in television. Before that I didn't have a physical regime because I was a magazine editor [Cosmopolitan En Espan~ol]. Basically sat and wrote a lot. I smoked a lot and a lot of Cuban coffee and drank a lot.
So when I changed to television, I noticed that my sugar level was fluctuating. Gloria told me, "Listen, you need to start doing physical exercises."
Q: Now that's hard. You had to change your whole style.
A: It was very hard. The hardest thing I've ever done. But she sent her personal trainers and they taught me how to exercise, how to jog and ever since then, I've felt a lot better. Imagine me, jogging four miles every day now at 49!
Q: Do you feel sexy?
A: Sometimes when I get home I'm so exhausted but, you know, most of the time I feel very sexy. Having a husband 11 years younger helps. I'm not knocking older men but, for me, it's worked the other way and we've been married for 13 years.
Q: You have to be under a lot of stress to tape 20 to 24 shows in two weeks.
A: Exercise in the morning helps me get rid of that stress--it just flies out. I watch a movie on my treadmill or listen to motivational cassettes when I'm jogging. I have a massage three or four times a week. And I learned to meditate.
Q: I cannot picture you meditating.
A: I always thought that meditation was this bizarre thing that, frankly, I could not do because I have a "monkey mind"--you get a thought and then a million come in and jump all over the place. So it was very hard for me to learn.
You know those timers they have for eggs? Well, I set it for 20 minutes. I go "Oooone, twoooo." You slow yourself down because. . . . You sound as hyper as I am. Let me ask you something. What do you do right before you go to sleep?
Q: Listen to music, take a bubble bath, read.
A: All right, that's what I was going to say. You need to put easy, nice, tranquil thoughts in your head before you go to bed. You know what I do? I read metaphysical books. The good stuff stays in your brain once you go under.
Q: You said that you don't work out for "pretty reasons."
A: For ladies who are over 40, please, do not let any of this become an obsession. Remember why you're doing it--to feel better and to enjoy your life.
I cannot understand why a 40-year-old woman would feel competitive with an 18-year-old. That's ridiculous.
* Guest Workout runs Wednesdays in Life & Style. This interview with Cristina Saralegui appears in Spanish in today's Vida y Estilo section of La Opinion.