Longoria Puts a Fresh Face on the ALMA Awards


Eva Longoria may be "Desperate" as a television housewife, but that's hardly the case in her career.

One of her earliest signs of success was a 2002 ALMA Award for the CBS daytime serial "The Young and the Restless." Now she's helping to honor other Latino entertainers as host and producer of the 2006 ALMA Awards, which ABC airs Monday, June 5.

The 90-minute program, recorded May 7 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, includes tributes to singer Marc Anthony (who receives the Celia Cruz Award for Excellence in Music) and Andy Garcia (the winner of the Anthony Quinn Award for Excellence in Motion Pictures).

Other participants include Maria Conchita Alonso, Big & Rich, Cowboy Troy, Michael Douglas, Carmen Electra, Gloria Estefan, Jay Hernandez ("Hostel"), Randy Jackson ("American Idol"), George Lopez, Cheech Marin, Brian McKnight, Danny Pino ("Cold Case"), Judy Reyes ("Scrubs"), Adam Rodriguez ("CSI: Miami"), Roselyn Sanchez ("Without a Trace"), talk-show icon Cristina Saralegui and Wilmer Valderrama ("That '70s Show").

When ABC and the National Council of La Raza, the civil rights and advocacy organization behind the ALMAs, asked Longoria to parlay her "Desperate Housewives" fame into hosting the ceremony, she wanted to get involved on a bigger level.

"Producing is my passion," says the actress, considerably friendlier than her Sunday-night alter ego, Gabrielle. "I love developing projects, and I like the business side of the entertainment industry.

"I had been involved with the NCLR for as long as I can remember, doing advocacy work with them. They started doing the ALMAs about seven years ago, to recognize positive images of Latinos in Hollywood. To be a part of that, and to continue that tradition, was exciting to me."

Longoria is not an in-name-only producer. She became so enmeshed in the financial and logistical aspects, she says she hadn't "practiced the hosting" until a couple of days before the taping.

"Anything with a teleprompter is easy for me, compared to what I do on 'Desperate Housewives,'" she says. "I was more worried about the actual look of the show, the message of it, the media buys with the commercials, all of that. It's a lot of fun for me, though."

Named after the Spanish word for "spirit" or "soul," the ALMA was highly significant to Longoria when she won it for portraying Isabella Brana Williams during her two-year stint on "The Young and the Restless." She recalls, "I didn't even know I was on anybody's radar to win an award, much less a Latin award, so I was really honored. It was the first award I'd ever gotten for acting, so it was like I had arrived."

Still, Longoria didn't deem herself a major ALMA proponent until she was approached for this year's edition.

"You know, I always underestimate myself," she says. "When we did the announcement that the ALMAs were coming back and they would be on ABC and I would be hosting, there were more press people than at the actual ALMA Awards before this one.

"At the red-carpet run-through, there was double the amount of press than the Primetime Emmy Awards had. I couldn't believe it, but that says something about the power of 'Desperate Housewives.' It's really exciting to put that platform to something I believe in."

While Longoria would prefer less than a month between the taping and the telecast, she notes the NCLR is a nonprofit organization, "so for us, it's very important that we make the awards as exciting and fun as possible ... and also as efficient and profitable as possible, to actually help the work that the NCLR does.

"I don't think the secretiveness [of who won] is a big problem," she continues. "Even if you found out somebody won, you'll still look forward to that person's speech and to the performances."

At the point she was putting the final touches on the ALMA Awards, Longoria was doing the same for the second-season finale of "Desperate Housewives," one of this year's ALMA nominees for outstanding television series. She also was finishing up promotional rounds for her movie "The Sentinel," in which she starred with Michael Douglas and Kiefer Sutherland, plus her boyfriend -- Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs -- was in the early rounds of the NBA basketball playoffs.

What was Longoria's typical day like at the time? "I went to the game last night, flew this morning at 6:30, landed at 7:30, went to the ['Housewives'] set and worked until noon, then did the Spanish [electronic press kit] for the ALMA Awards and filmed a tribute to one of the presidents of ABC, then jumped in the car and ran to get somebody some dance shoes for the opening number of the ALMAs. Now I'm at the drive-through, getting lunch on my way to an ALMA production meeting.

"It is a lot to handle," Longoria allows, "but if something goes wrong, it's going to be Eva Longoria's name that's more recognized than that of Jeff Margolis (the award-show veteran who's an executive producer of the ALMAs). For me, it's very important that I'm at every meeting, and they've been very accommodating with my schedule.

"I'm going to have my summer off, though, and Tony and I are going on vacation. I'm not doing a movie this time, which I'm actually really excited about. I believe in working hard and playing hard."

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