Lucero Hogaza León was only 10 years old when she attended her first audition for a national TV show in her native Mexico. Armed with a guitar, a pair of dreamy eyes and a huge dose of charm, the brown-haired girl quickly grabbed the attention of the show’s producer, who offered her a part in the children’s program Alegrías de Mediodía, airing on Mexico’s most popular TV network: Canal 2, property of Mexico City-based powerhouse Grupo Televisa.
That was in 1980. Thirty-five years later, the charming little girl who jumped to fame as “Lucerito” has grown up in front of millions of fans to become one of Mexico’s most prolific television figures, with dozens of telenovelas, movies and plays to her credit, all while keeping true to her origin as a singer and songwriter.
In addition to her stardom on screen and stage, the 46-year-old mother of two, now called simply “Lucero,” is also known for her hosting skills. She has fronted popular television shows in Mexico and internationally , including the Latin Grammys, La Voz México (Mexico’s spinoff of NBC’s The Voice), the philanthropic show Teletón Mexico and Teletón USA, as well as the 2015 Latin American Music Awards, the Spanish-language version of Dick Clark Productions’ American Music Awards, earlier this month..
La novia de México (Mexico’s sweetheart), as Lucero is known by her fans, will receive the 2015 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Hispanic Television from Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable on Oct. 22, at the 13th annual Hispanic Television Summit in New York City.
Lucero is the first telenovela star to be honored with this award.
Lucero might not be immediately recognized by non-Spanish speaking audiences in the United States, but her popularity in Latin America has earned her an impressive following on social media, where she engages personally with her fans. Lucero boasts 4.25 million followers on Twitter, several million more than some other high-profile recipients of this award, including Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos (1.5 million;), co-anchor María Elena Salinas (362,000) or even boxing champion Oscar de la Hoya (941,000).
The secret to her success?
“Lucero is one of the most versatile — if not the most versatile — stars I’ve ever known,” said Luis Silberwasser, president of Telemundo, about the star chosen by the NBCU-owned network to host the first ever Latin American Music Awards, which was telecast Oct. 8 on Telemundo and NBC Universo live from the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
Indeed, in addition to her career as a singer, actress and TV host, Lucero can easily switch gears to lend her charm — and skills — to more serious subjects (closer to her heart, as she says), including covering Pope Francis’ recent U.S. visit for Telemundo or hosting a Latin American telethon to raise funds for handicap children. She is so versatile in fact, that it’s hard to describe her to an American audience.
“Think about a mix between Jodie Foster and Marie Osmond,” said Armando Correa, publisher of the New York City-based People en Español. “She’s also a kind of Helen Hunt or Valerie Bertinelli ... but who is also a singer.”
Correa, whose magazine has recognized Lucero several times as one of its 50 Most Beautiful Latinos, putting her on the edition’s cover for the first time in 2013 as The Queen of Telenovelas, explains the phenomenon behind Lucero’s mass appeal. And it has a lot to do with her having jumped to fame as a little girl.
“The audience has seen her grow, get married, have children and get a divorce,” Correa said. “It is as if she were the star in her own telenovela.”
Lucero was married to singer-songwriter Manuel Mijares for 14 years before they split up in 2011. The couple had a boy and a girl.
No strings attached
It is common practice among Spanish-speaking celebrities to sign ironclad exclusivity contracts with either Univision or Telemundo in the United States or with juggernaut Grupo Televisa in Mexico. While Lucero had a long and fruitful career as a Televisaonly artist, she is now her own free agent, picking and choosing projects without attaching herself to one particular media company or outlet.
“She is not an exclusive [Telemundo] artist, and she is free to choose what’s best for her. As for us, we couldn’t be happier to have her working with us right now,” Telemudo’s Silberwasser said, adding that his network is already “in talks” with Lucero about a potential “scripted-series project,” though he declined to give specifics.
As busy as she may be, Lucero still takes the time to personally respond to her fans on Twitter, one of whom recently posted a picture of her pregnant belly, announcing proudly that she’d be naming her baby Lucero in honor of the star.
“Wow!” Lucero replied. “What a nice gift you have given me. Obrigada de bendiciones” she wrote in Spanish, adding the Portuguese word for “thankful” (Obrigada), since the future mom and self-declared die-hard Lucero fan is Brazilian.
Laura Martínez is a New York-based journalist.