In spite of the difficult obstacles she has confronted in her life, María Celeste has been able to move forward and triumph against all odds as a woman, a mother, and a professional. What is her secret? You will find the answer in Make Your Life Prime Time, an empowering and uplifting guide for succeeding in all areas of life.
Through a series of autobiographical anecdotes, María Celeste shares with her fans the formula to achieve fame, fortune, and emotional fulfillment, all at the same time. She is proof that it is possible to survive heartbreak and find true love without sacrificing professional success and the dream of having a family.
María Celeste shares the lessons she learned from her parents' divorce, the adoption of one of her sons in Russia, and the abuse that her other son suffered at the hands of a nanny. She talks about the betrayal by her unfaithful husband and making peace with the "other woman." And she reveals how her personal assistant stole her identity and thousands of dollars in the midst of her divorce.
Make Your Life Prime Time takes you behind the scenes of the fascinating, fast-paced, and cutthroat world of television like never before. This book is funny and moving, inspiring and powerful. It's a lesson on the power of forgiveness and the importance of striving for excellence.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Yes, it is possible to learn from someone else's mistakes.
My mother is a remarkable woman who speaks three languages, plays the piano like a concert pianist, has a degree in chemistry, and can talk about almost anything. Yet when it came to matters of the heart, she admits that she sacrificed her dreams and aspirations for love. Over and over again.
One thing she did right was to make sure that I didn't do the same. And I never have.
She married my father two months after graduating magna cum laude with a chemistry degree. Although she had been awarded a scholarship to continue her studies in Belgium, she heeded her mother's advice and followed my father to England, where he, too, had been awarded a scholarship. After all, back then, when a woman got married, she was expected to stay home and raise the children.
And that's what she did. As a wife, she was the perfect complement to my father, who eventually became the chancellor of the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez, where my sister and I were born. After classes, she gathered several professors at our house on campus and they would spend long hours discussing philosophy, literature, and the arts. We had a good life and enjoyed the perks that came with my father's position -- a chef, a chauffeur, and a live-in nanny.
But my parents' divorce changed all that. My father left the university to pursue a political career, and my mother, my sister, and I moved into my grandmother's apartment in San Juan. It was a tough time. My father was running for mayor of San Juan and, not having an income, he was struggling to pay our private school tuition and to send my mother her $500 monthly alimony. My mother had no choice but to look for a job. It was a rude awakening. She had to compete with younger professionals with master's degrees and doctorates. And after being out of her field for more than a decade, most of what she had learned had become obsolete in the face of technological advances.
She was a housewife with no house and no husband.
I saw her go from a life of privilege as the spouse of the university chancellor to a life of uncertainty working entrylevel jobs to make ends meet. She struggled unbelievably, both financially and in rediscovering who she was as a person.
And in the process, she made sure that we learned by example. She would always tell me, "Brains over beauty, Mari. Studying hard and having a career is the only insurance in life."
At thirteen, I started to take on babysitting jobs so I could afford the nice outfits all teenagers fancy. I will always remember the day I walked into a Lerner's with my hard-earned twenty dollars and bought myself a red shirt with white letters that read "peace and love." It was my prized possession.
My mother got a job working for the University of Puerto Rico at an agricultural experimental station, where she met the man who would become her second husband -- a Peruvian doctor who soon received a residency opportunity in New Jersey.
Then she did it again. She sacrificed her profession for love, chose to follow him, and together they eventually had two sons. My sister and I were in the middle of the school year, so it was decided that we would stay with my father and his new wife.
In New Jersey, my mother stayed at home with their sons, one of whom developed severe mental retardation and autism as a result of an undiagnosed thyroid deficiency. Unable to deal with a handicapped child, her husband left her after eight years of marriage. A few months later he stopped paying child support.
I remember her telling me, "Never put your life in the hands of a man. Make sure you are always self-sufficient, economically independent, so that you don't have to go through what I'm going through."
But nothing she told me has shaped me more than watching the woman I respect most in the world pick up the pieces of her life and start anew -- a second time.
She was at a bigger disadvantage -- older, in a different city, and all alone. But she pulled through. Thanks to her academic background and language skills, she eventually got an entry-level job at an international pharmaceutical company and worked her way up to middle management.
She worked about forty miles from home, so she would get up at four in the morning to make breakfast for the family, shower, and rush out of the house. There was no time to dry her hair, so in the winter, icicles formed by the time she reached her car. A few times after a long day of hard work she fell asleep at the wheel. Thankfully, she never had an accident. My mother always says that an angel was with her, because angels protect mothers who are left alone to care for their children. She believes that if mothers do the best they can, God will handle the rest.
She spent sixteen years working hard and raising my brothers. The oldest graduated from college with honors and, at my mother's insistence, continued on to complete his master's degree.
Although my mother never achieved her full potential professionally, her sacrifice was rewarded when she met a fellow scientist who had never been married and had no children. They became husband and wife shortly thereafter, and he has been a real father to my handicapped brother.
As a result of my mother's experience, I vowed that I was going to get an education, and I was going to have a career. And I was never going to leave my destiny in the hands of a man. That's not to say I didn't want to fall in love, or be married, or have children. I simply wanted to be the owner of my own decisions. I didn't want to be in a situation where I lost at love and lost at life as a consequence.
I went to Loyola University in New Orleans on financial aid and worked odd jobs to make extra cash and pay six hundred dollars for my first car. I scooped ice cream all day at Häagen-Dazs, and at night had to take aspirin to relieve the pain in my wrists. At another job, at a health food restaurant, I had to don a moon suit whenever I took the chocolate-dipped bananas into the freezer. I worked as a waitress, serving hamburgers and pizza for meager tips, and mopped the floors at closing time. And I put up with some really nasty customers.
I graduated from college with a communications degree, and so did my boyfriend at the time. But instead of me following him, he followed me. He moved to Puerto Rico, even though he didn't speak Spanish. The relationship didn't last long after that.
A couple of years after marrying my first husband, I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime: to enter the Hispanic television market as the anchor of an important station in New York City. And driven by his selfless love, my husband let me go. But living in different cities, we grew apart and eventually divorced.
My career took me from San Juan to New York to Los Angeles to Miami. I felt like a gypsy. In five years, I lived in four different cities. And even though I managed to fall deeply in love, I moved every time my job required it. My love was strong, but the fear of ending up like my mother was stronger.
I met my second husband after living in Miami for several years. At that point I was ready to settle down and have a home. We had many happy times and three beautiful children. But trying to juggle family and a successful career took all my energy. I was so determined to be the perfect wife, mother, and professional that I never saw it coming: He started seeing someone else.
The night I found out, I couldn't close my eyes. Yet the next morning, anxious and exhausted as I was, I was on a flight to New York for a scheduled meeting with the president of NBC. It took everything I had to stay focused during that meeting, which was so important to my career. Again, I wasn't going to let anything interfere with my goals, my independence, not even one of the most painful disappointments of my life.
I have learned that it is possible to find love -- true, passionate, meaningful love -- more than once. But there's a difference between giving your love to someone and letting yourself get lost in love.
I know that if I had not learned that distinction, my second divorce would have not only devastated me emotionally but also ruined me financially. For nearly ten years, I was enriched by that relationship, but I wasn't defined by it. I had established myself and my career independent of my ex-husband. Before that relationship and since, I continue to have my own identity. The only person who should define you in life is you.
That doesn't mean it's easy. Not long ago, I was days away from embarking on a trip to Africa with someone I cared for tremendously when I received a call from the Today show. Once again, they wanted me to cohost the program. Unfortunately it was on the same day we were supposed to depart. That meant having to rearrange several connecting flights, which could potentially derail our entire trip. My boyfriend didn't take the news well, and for the first time in my life, I wondered if I should follow my heart.
When I called my agent and friend Raúl Mateu to share my predicament, he didn't hesitate:
"Any guy who wants you to give up a great opportunity like this one isn't worth it," he told me. "Take it from the other man in your life. When you do the Today show, all the guys in the United States are going to fall all over you!"
Ultimately, my boyfriend understood. He was that kind of guy. And not only did I do the show, but we went to Africa the next day.
Some people may judge me as calculating or unromantic. But nothing is further from the truth. To give yourself in a relationship, you need to be whole; otherwise you have nothing to offer. And that can be accomplished only by achieving your goals as an individual. Then, and only then, will you be able to choose a partner based on his or her human qualities and not on your insecurities or financial needs. And when you give your heart, that person will know it was earned for all the right reasons.
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