Cristina’s bilingual world expanding

Hostess eyes film role, sitcom, clothing, furniture

MIAMI — She’s the Oprah Winfrey of the Latina gab world, and Cristina Saralegui’s sphere of influence is about to get even bigger.

In late May, Saralegui celebrated her 15 years on the airwaves with “Quinceanera,” which attracted performances and tributes from the likes of Julio Iglesias and Barbara Walters. The anniversary may also be seen as a starting point: The English-speaking world is about to get a closer look at Saralegui.

Three years ago, Saralegui ended her afternoon talker strip on the flagship Univision Network to concentrate on a once-weekly primetime show on the net that in turn gave her more time to plot outside projects.

For starters, last year Saralegui signed with CAA and in September she inked a talent holding deal with Touchstone Television.

She plans to star in a English-lingo laffer based on her evolution from print journo to TV queen and mini media mogul, and relationship with her younger husband/manager, Marcos Avila.

Saralegui will co-exec produce and intends to star as herself. “I’m looking forward to doing the sitcom,” she says. “After years working opposite two cameras and thinking on my feet, I find acting fun and very relaxing.

“The showrunners and executive producers are in place, and we’ve got writers,” Saralegui tells Variety. “They’re now going with Touchstone to pitch the pilot script.”

Saralegui is also in talks with Miramax to get a labor of love off the ground: a biopic of Cuban salsa star Celia Cruz, who died last year. Saralegui is planning to co-produce with Avila, with Whoopi Goldberg in the lead.

In addition to appearances on “Hollywood Squares,” Saralegui, who is completely bilingual, has guested on “George Lopez” and NBC’s “Passions.”

Off the big and small screens, Saralegui and Avila’s other interests include the monthly magazine “Cristina,” co-published and distribbed by Editorial Televisa. U.S. and Latin America circulation stands at 120,000, with a recently expanded number of editorial pages to respond to advertiser demand.

The duo also own Blue Dolphin Studios, a 50,000-square-foot facility in Miami, and Saralegui records a daily radio program distribbed by ABC Radio Intl.

But that’s not all — Saralegui has ambitions to go beyond mass media. Now in the works are a Casa Cristina furniture line, skedded for this fall, and a sports clothing line for 2005 that will be marketed in English and Spanish.