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Ex-beauty queen washes up on soap

Machado to star in Televisa's 'Amor'

MEXICO CITY – Alicia Machado, the former “Mass Universe” and one-time protege of the Donald, has the Mexican public to thank for her starring role in the Televisa telenovela “Por Tu Amor.”

Machado had just one soap credit to her name: last year’s “Samantha” in her native Venezuela. Though it was popular, she was panned by the critics and the sudser never made it to Mexico. Still, it piqued the interest of Televisa producer Carlos Sotomayor.

Hunting for a heroine for his latest soap, Sotomayor put a new spin on market research and polled viewers of morning newsmag “Hoy,” which rates high among his core constituency of housewives. Pitted against four local starlets, the foreign beauty queen won by a landslide.

That unto itself was novel: Televisa generally grooms talent at its star school or signs up actors who have made a big name in other countries. And for a Mexican public used to skinny leading ladies, Machado — once unkindly dubbed “Mass Universe” on account of her bulging bod — lends a different kind of weight to the novela genre.

Not that Machado is particularly plump. After her 1996 title and subsequent eating binge, she reportedly saved her crown by working out at Donald Trump’s private gym. Romantically linked with Trump, she later achieved further notoriety when fingered as the get-away driver during an alleged kidnapping.

Machado was flown up from Venezuela to begin shooting immediately. “Por Tu Amor” may imitate life for Machado, whose character falls madly in love with an older, wealthy man.