Cristina Maria Saralegui grew up in a media-sawy family. Her grandfather, publish¬ ing tycoon Don Francisco Saralegui, had a powerful influence on her, but her success ulti¬ mately comes from her own ambition.In I960, to escape Cuba’s communist revo¬ lution, Saralegui’s family left Havana, where she was born, to settle in Miami, Florida.
A few years later, she entered the University of Miami to study mass communication and creative writing. While in college, she accepted an internship at the Spanish-language magazine Vanidades Continental, which evolved into a position as features editor.
In 1973, Saralegui became an editor at Cosmopolitan-en-Espanol. Three years later, she took a job as the entertainment editor at the Miami Herald newspaper. In 1977, she landed a job as the editor-in-chief of another Spanish-language publication, Intimidades magazine. Two years later, she went back to Cosmopolitan-en-Espanol, as the editor- in-chief.
Saralegui’s greatest successes, however, did not come in the print media. In 1989, she began her own Spanish-language television talk show, El show de Cristina. Referred to by some as “Oprah con salsa,” the show focused on controversial social issues that had previously been considered taboo bv the conservative Spanish-language media.
At first, Saralegui had been concerned that Hispanics would not want to discuss some of these topics. After the first show, however, she received letters and phone calls from people who divulged secrets that Saralegui said she “would not tell my pastor, my doctor, or my husband.” She was then convinced that her audience was in need of just the kind of forum she was providing.
Saralegui also encountered hostility from some Hispanics who felt she was “too white”— she is of light skin and has blonde hair—to represent them. She dismissed the criticism as racist and emphasized the point that the term Hispanic includes a broad range of peoples.El show de Cristina leaped past these initial hurdles and became one of the top ten Spanish-language programs in the United States.
In 1991, it won an Emmy Award.In that same year, Saralegui also debuted a three-minute daily radio show, Cristina Opina, and she began publishing her monthly lifestyle magazine, Cristina la Revista (Cristina the Magazine). A year later, Saralegui became the first Hispanic to host daily television pro¬ grams in two languages when she began hosting an English-language version of El show de Cristina.
In May 2001, Saralegui opened a 50,000-square-foot (4,645-sq-m) production center in west Miami-Dade County to house her media company, Cristina Saralegui Enterprises. Later that year, she announced she would end her twelve-year stint as host of El show de Cristina at the end of the year to concentrate on developing other projects.