By Sharon Edry
Special to TelevisionWeek
Maria Celeste Arraras said she was tired earlier this month after spending a long day hosting her daily infotainment newsmagazine, “Al Rojo Vivo con Maria Celeste” (“Red Hot Live With Maria Celeste”) and then helping to promote it at the upfront advertising presentations for Telemundo in New York. She was also scheduled to appear that night at a presentation for People en Espanol’s “50 Most Beautiful” in Hispanic entertainment issue, for which she was slated to be on the cover.
“I really wish I were going home and sleeping,” she said. “I’m not really that big on awards.”
But Ms. Arraras, who normally goes by her stage name, Maria Celeste, said she feels different about the honorary trustee award she’s set to receive from NATAS for her leadership role in Spanish-language television. “I’m very honored … because it’s the most prestigious award there is in television,” she said. “I cherish the experience of getting one.”
Ms. Arraras’ star has been on the rise ever since the Puerto Rico native arrived in New York to anchor the local news program for Univision in 1989. Eventually, she anchored for eight years the network’s tabloid news show “Premier Impacto” (“First Impact”). In 2002 Ms. Arraras signed with NBC/Telemundo, a deal that has led to stints on several NBC shows, including “Today” and “Dateline NBC.”
Ms. Arraras said she wants to continue pursuing English-language projects but isn’t prepared to do so full-time. “Making a crossover hasn’t taken any of my sleep away,” she said, “but I would like to do it because I feel the Anglo world is ready for Latinos, and even Latinos with a slight accent like mine.”
Raul Mateu, head of the Latin American division at the William Morris Agency and Ms. Arraras’ agent, said the opportunity to cross over will be there for her when she is ready. “The response to her in what she’s already done in English has been phenomenal,” said Mr. Mateu, who also heads the organizing committee that selected the Spanish-language television honorees for the National Academy for Television Arts and Sciences. “The last time she was on the ‘Today’ show, we were flooded with calls from the industry, asking who she was and how can we get her on the air.
“She’s a great communicator, and people feel like they have a personal relationship with her,” Mr. Mateu said. “I think that’s why she’s been so successful.”
Aside from getting very little sleep, Ms. Arraras said she’s gratified by her work. A longtime environmentalist and animal-rights activist, she said “Al Rojo Vivo” is a vehicle that allows her to bring to light a variety of issues she deems important.
She said she hopes those changes will include garnering new respect for Spanish-language television.
“I don’t think we have influenced the rest of the television industry as much as we should,” she said. “The one area where we are starting to get respect is because of the sheer numbers we represent, but we’ve made an incredible difference bringing the entire Hispanic community together. We are literally the lifeline of our culture.”
Maria Celeste Arraras
Title: Host, “Al Rojo Vivo con Maria Celeste,” Telemundo
How long in current position: Three years
Year of birth: 1960
Place of birth: Mayaguez, Puerto Rico
Who knew? Ms. Arraras watches telenovelas religiously. “I always have one I watch at a time,” she said. “My current one is Brazilian, with subtitles.”