Exclusive: Maria Conchita Alonso’s Hollywood Drama

Maria Conchita Alonso, telenovela goddess and la original Latina bombshell, is back! The Venezuelan actress and Grammy-winning singer is starring in Viva Hollywood!, VH1’s telenovela reality competition that premieres on April 13—right on time to replace our obsession with Daisy De La Hoya on Rock of Love. If you’re not familiar with the show’s drama-licious plot, picture this: twelve Latinos living in a “Casa De Locos” (actually, it’s a posh mansion in Miami), getting tested on the Deady Sins of telenovelas—fire, seduction and scandal, to name a few—and competing for a starring role on a Telemundo soap. Let the madness ensue.

Viva Hollywood! also features boricua star Carlos Ponce and Liberace-like horoscope guru Walter Mercado, and everyone from Daisy Fuentes to Perez Hilton to Charo all make special appearances. But the queen of the show is no doubt Conchita Alonso, who gets the dubious honor of deciding which contestant to send packing each week and crowning the ultimate winner.

We chatted with the legend about her experience judging a bunch of drama queens, the political state of her home country and why she’s still sexy at 51.

Tell us about your role on Viva Hollywood!

Maria: I’m la diva de la casa, which means that I’m the judge who decides who stays and who goes.The show’s producers called me to discuss the idea, and after having a few good laughs over the concept, I decided to do it.

What’s your dynamic with Carlos Ponce on the show?

Maria: Carlos has more one-on-one interaction with the contestants—he tells the kids what they have to do, whereas I have to do a little more acting. When it’s time for the diva to come out, I come out!

Do you think this show will appeal to non-Latinos, or Latinos who aren’t into telenovelas?

Maria: I think this show will grab anybody, because it’s a well-done show—it’s funny and has a lot of craziness, and there’s a little scandal in every episode. As long as people watch it and go, “Oh my God!” and get shocked by what they’re seeing, I think we’ll have it made. I really hope that young Latinos and the American market get into Walter Mercado too—he’s such a character!

Was it difficult for you to decide who stayed and who went home?

Maria: Yes, it was for the first few episodes! It’s hard because I don’t want to be a mean person who can, you know, mess up these kids’ dreams. I let each of them know that this is just the beginning of their careers. If they’re not chosen, so what? When a door closes, that should make you even stronger.

When you enter the room in a nearly see-through dress in the show’s debut episode, some of the male contestants get extra excited! A couple of them even said that you were their first major crush when they were little. How does that make you feel?

Maria: I think it means that, professionally speaking, I did something right. When people like you, no matter how old they are, that feels good. And besides, I feel as young as they are! I’ve never had a problem with age; my feelings and emotions are still like those of a young woman. Thank God, I can still be surprised and excited, and I can still dream. I think that’s something no one should stop doing, because it’s what keeps you young! So when the boys see me and they go, “Oh, wow!” I kind of see it as normal. Of course, then they say that they were five years old, and I’m like, “Oh, my God.” [laughs]

What do you think is the secret to staying sexy?

Maria: Sexiness es lo que tú emanas, you know? It just comes out of your pores. And when you don’t worry about things like aging, it shows. I have friends who hide in their bedroom for three days every time they have another birthday. That’s what brings the wrinkles! I didn’t care when I turned 30 or 40 or 50. My energy’s great, and I still have a lot of stamina—I exercise everyday with a trainer who kills me. I believe that your own thoughts can bring on positive or negative effects. So the people who feel sick all the time are the ones who are going to get sick, and the people who are constantly worried about what’s going on around them…those are the ones in trouble.

You’re also working on a film about your native country, Venezuela. Tell us about that.

Maria: I’m producing a movie about the political situation in Venezuela to show what’s really been happening there in the past few years. It’s not really a documentary, but a fictional movie that reflects the reality of the situation in my country. You know, they’ve closed down the television networks—and when I say “they,” I mean [President] Hugo Chavez—they own the electric company and the phone company. And everything that’s happening with the FARC situation in Colombia, we touch on that too. Even though the characters will be made up, they will be going through the truth of what’s happening there right now.

A lot of people view Hugo Chavez as a new version of Fidel Castro. Do you think that’s a fair comparison.

Maria: In some ways, yes. But the difference is that there’s so much money in Venezuela—that’s what makes it hard to make him leave. People in Venezuela say, “I hate him,” but look at all the money they’re making. Meanwhile, below them, there’s more poverty than ever before.

Besides those two projects, what else are you working on?

Maria: I’m in a movie coming out next year called Spread. It stars Ashton Kutcher, and it’s a comedy about a young guy who’s looking to date older women. I play Ingrid, an older woman who’s very rich.

How does it feel, being able to continue working successfully in both markets?

Maria: I’ve never stopped! I’ve been doing it for some 20 years now, so for me it’s normal. Hopefully with Viva Hollywood!, VH1 will be able to grab the attention of the huge Latino audience that exists in this country, because that would be a great
crossover for the network. As for me—hey, if they offer me something in China, I’d do that, too! It doesn’t really matter where the opportunity comes from, as long as I have fun doing the work.

--Monica Herrera