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She Didn't Want a Man Like Dad

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At 22, Chabeli Iglesias steps out of her father’s shadow into a spotlight of her own

WHEN YOU’RE CHABELI IGLESIAS, JUST LEAVING HOME CAN be an adventure. To escape the photographers who often camp outside her Madrid home, “I ride in the trunk of the car,” she says with a giggle. “Once we were going along, and it was really bumpy, and I was hilling my head.” Here Chabeli, 22, erupts into hysterical laughter. “And once I felt like I couldn’t breathe anymore, and I started banging on the trunk, and the driver couldn’t hear me. I thought I was going to die!”

Obviously Chabeli (a nickname for Isabel) has come to grips with her paparazzi predicament. The only daughter of Spanish singing superstar Julio Iglesias and Filipino socialite Isabel Preysler, she has lived in the spotlight practically since infancy. As a teenage model, she saw her face on billboards and magazine covers throughout the Latin world and was fawned over by her father’s fans. “Some people are just famous,” she says with a shrug. “Like John F Kennedy Jr. He never did anything, and you ask yourself, ‘Why do people like him?’ Or Caroline of Monaco. The only thing she’s done is get married twice. I don’t know whether they’re lucky or unlucky, but they get the limelight.”

Now, however, she is planning to earn her fame. This month she launches her own twice-monthly talk show, Chabeli, on the U.S. Spanish-language television network Univision, which she hopes will win her the attention of American audiences. “It’s my first time working in the Slates,” says Chabeli, who has booked Michael Douglas, Placido Domingo and—of course—Dad for upcoming shows. “I’m very excited.”

So is Univision president Ray Rodriguez, who jumped at the chance to hire Chabeli when Julio’s former publicist mentioned her TV ambitions. Says Rodriguez: “She’s a TV executive’s dream: bright, beautiful, and she has a magic last name.”

Not that she has always been happy to have it. In 1981, when Julio released the sentimental standard “From a Child to a Woman,” about a little girl growing up, he had to bribe Chabeli, then 10, with candy to pose for publicity photos. “I hated the press,” she says.

But those appearances were among the few occasions she spent with her father. After her parents split in 1979, Chabeli and younger brothers Julio José, now 20, and Enrique, 18, both students, eventually moved from Spain to live with their paternal grandmother in Miami. Although Julio lived nearby, she says he rarely saw his children. “He was always into his work,” says Chabeli. “When he had time, he was with us, but family was never his strong point.”

And Julio’s romantic involvements only made matters worse. “He’s always been a womanizer,” Chabeli says matter-of-factly. “That’s his life, and I’ve always said, ‘I’m not getting involved in his life.’ But I always looked for a husband who is not like my father.”

Last September she found one. In a lavish wedding in Barcelona, Chabeli wed Ricardo Bofill Jr., 28, the son of one of Europe’s most famous architects. Bofill currently works as a script reader for the European television channel Canal Plus. The newlyweds are already planning a large family, and Chabeli, who hints at having been hurt by the lack of attention from her own parents (her mother’s whirlwind social calendar didn’t leave much lime for her children), says she may retire when she has kids of her own. “If you leave your kids alone, they don’t feel important,” she says. While working on her talk show, Chabeli also hopes to make up for lost lime with her father. During the one week each month she’ll be taping the program in Miami, she’ll stay at Julio’s estate—and watch basketball with him or sail on his yacht, Chabeli. But while Chabeli is happy that her father supports her TV efforts—”Chabeli is a real woman, and that’s what people want to see on television,” he has said—she has a feeling the togetherness will only go so far. “He thinks he knows everything,” she says, laughing. “I am the only person in his world who will tell him I don’t think he’s right. Sometimes I think he would rather I shut up!”

CYNTHIA SANZ

CINDY DAMPIER in Miami