Those in the U.S. who have heard of the Mexican singer and actress Thalia probably know her best as the third wife of Tommy Mottola, chairman of Sony Music Entertainment. But in the rest of the world, those who have heard of Tommy Mottola, probably know him as the first husband of Thalia. Mottola may have launched the career of his previous wife, Mariah Carey, but in vast swaths of the globe, Thalia, 30, has already made a name for herself.
She is an icon in her native country, adored in Greece, Indonesia and Brazil and venerated in the Philippines. Her six records, on which her pop paeans to love are underscored with a Latin beat, sell from China to Argentina, and the three Mexican soap operas in which she has starred have been seen by an estimated 1 billion people worldwide. If she is bent on storming North America's pop-chart border, she keeps it well hidden. "It will be a plus if it happens in the States," she says. "But I've made it in so many countries, and I know I can keep counting on my people."
Flirtatious and preternaturally effusive, Thalia tends to coo rather than converse, and what many of her people respond to, no doubt, is the charmed, fairy-tale aura she spins around her success. The youngest of five siblings (her father died when she was a child), she started off in the chorus in a Mexico City production of Grease at 13 and was playing the lead within weeks. At 19, she starred in the first of her three soap operas; none designed to last more than a year, and all following the same story arc: girl from a low station soars into high society. Employing a synergy that would make many a media conglomerate drool, her songs played over the shows' credits, sending her albums to the top of the charts wherever the series aired.
Thalia is working on a new album to be released next year that will include several songs in English. "I've already [recorded in English] for the Philippines and other markets in Asia, and it went really well," she explains. "It also went well when I recorded in Portuguese and French." Obviously, Thalia does not get lost in translation.