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The Orange County Register

Triple Threat: Singer, Actor And TV Personality Carlos Ponce Is Poised To Build His Heartthrob Status Among Latinos Into Hollywood Stardom


November 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The Orange County Register. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2003 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

The dapper man strolling through the Tuscan-style resort overlooking the Pacific Ocean is Carlos Ponce. Pop star. Actor. TV host. Pitchman. Jack of all trades.

In a dark suit and tie, with wavy dark hair with subtle blond streaks, Ponce settles into a chair at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa in Dana Point. In a few minutes he will finish shooting the romantic comedy "Meet Me in Miami," his first feature film as a leading man.

A new member of the film crew is perplexed as to why women and men are fussing over Ponce, a handsome 31-year-old popular among Latinos in the United States and Latin America who has been chosen one of the "25 Most Beautiful People" by People en Espanol.

"Who the heck is this guy?" the crew member asks.

Ponce may not yet be a household name with non-Latinos, but he is headed in that direction. His most recent high-profile role is as a special correspondent on "Entertainment Tonight." He has also been on the television dramas "7th Heaven," "Karen Sisco" and "Once and Again." Last week he was in Orange County finishing his film, Tuesday he released a greatest-hits double-disc CD and tonight he will be featured in a segment on "ET."

A prolific, award-winning recording artist, Ponce has been a telenovela actor seen on Spanish-language soap operas throughout the world. He also has hosted numerous youth-oriented shows.

"It gets a little complicated sometimes," Ponce said about juggling a bilingual career that involves multiple and varied projects. "I was able to pull it off in Spanish although it was never in my plan."

Ponce had always hoped for a career in the arts, but never did he think he would be working in several genres within entertainment. Industry observers say he has the potential for stardom in many fields.

"I see him doing more things outside of music," said Leila Cobo, Miami-Latin bureau chief for Billboard magazine. "He certainly has the looks, personality and talent to extend beyond the musical realm."

He was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, to Cuban parents who moved to Miami when he was in his teens. Even though music was what he liked most, he got his start as host of "Hablando" (Talking) on the Univision network in his late teens, which led to soap operas in Spanish and later a hosting job on "Control," a show popular among young people, which earned him two regional Emmys.

After singing a title track on one of his soap operas, Ponce was heard by EMI Latin executives who signed him to a record deal. In 1998 he received the Billboard Music Award for Best New Artist and Best Pop Album, New Artist.

These days, Ponce commutes between Miami and Hollywood. His leading-role performance in "Meet Me in Miami," a movie about a guy who sets out to reunite with his first love, will be crucial to the future of his film career. This year, he was seen in a cameo in the film "Chasing Papi."

Ponce believes that acting will offer better long-term prospects than singing. That's why he will focus on his film and television career, though he will continue to sing and record CDs.

"It's really hard to pick between music and acting," Ponce said. "Let me put it to you bluntly: My biggest passion is music."

This week's release of "La Historia" (The History), a double disc retrospective of his music on the EMI Latin label, features 16 songs he recorded and songs that he has written as well.

In the past few months Ponce has had early wake-up calls because of his busy schedule. One day he is off interviewing A-list actors such as Will Smith and Kate Hudson for "ET" and another day he is abroad shooting his film or on his cellular phone talking to contractors about building his dream home in Miami.

Ponce would like to keep evolving as a performer, but he wants to avoid the risk of overexposure.

"I'm hesitant because of the credibility factor," Ponce said during a break from his film while drinking an energy drink. "I don't want to be a celebrity. I want to be a credible actor or credible singer."

The work experience and Ponce's all-American good looks put him at the top of the list when "ET" was looking for a young male correspondent this year. So impressed was the show's executive producer, Linda Bell Blue, that she flew to Miami for a meeting.

"I would not leave until I got a yes," said Bell Blue. "Carlos is truly an insider, performer, musician, actor. He has lived the lives of many of the people featured on the show."

"ET" producers are looking to lure younger viewers by adding a charismatic entertainer like Ponce. They also know that with nearly 40 million Hispanics in the United States, Ponce already has a large following.Ponce will be not just be interviewing celebrities from the Latin world. His assignments will be broad and he sometimes will be part of the story. He will appear several times monthly between music, film and television projects.

"I'm happy I decided to join `ET' because it's opened trillions of doors," Ponce said. "The exposure has been incredible. I'm still trying to establish myself."

One actor that Ponce has maintained a friendship with through the years is Eduardo Verastegui ("Chasing Papi"), his co-star in "Meet Me in Miami." The Mexican actor started in the business with Ponce about a decade ago.

Verastegui describes Ponce as someone who works hard and is genuine when it comes to his friends and fans: "He is a very disciplined man. Women really like him. Hispanics know him."

Ponce said he likes to keep an open mind when it comes to future projects. He wouldn't mind, for example, trying his acting chops on a sitcom. He is a fan of Cary Grant. A talk show, like the one helmed by his godmother, Cristina Saralegui, is not out of the question either. But he wants to be selective.

"There's no question he'll have success," said Josh Kun, syndicated music columnist and pop culture critic. "A lot of it depends on how he markets himself."

When Ponce is not working with a team of managers and producers - - which includes his brother Francisco and music producer-mogul Emilio Estefan Jr. -- he spends time with his wife, Veronica; sons, Giancarlo, 4, and Sebastian, 2; and daughters, 1-year-old twins Sienna and Savannah.

Not yet being a star on the magnitude of J. Lo or Tom Cruise has its benefits, Ponce said, because he is able to still go to a movie theater and not be recognized.

"I want harmony for my personal and professional career," Ponce said seconds before being called to the set. "If I can keep that then I'll be a happy camper."

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