Carlos Ponce couldn’t have been complaining too loudly when his manager called with this offer: judge Model Latina: South Beach.
It’s season 5 of the English-language nuvoTV reality competition, which debuts 10 p.m. Monday and rewards the lucky winner $25,000 and a modeling contract.
Ponce, 39, claims his task on the panel wasn’t as cushy as it looked, even though a trailer sees him and the group of lovelies hanging at a waterside mansion, swimming with dolphins and sailing on a boat.
“People think this job is a lot more glamorous than it is. It wasn’t like being on a red carpet or going to a premiere,’’ he says. “As judges, we’re not allowed to have that much contact with the girls.’’
Luckily, the distance kept him out of the drama. But, as a mentor, he did give it them straight.
“I’m one of the more diplomatic ones,’’ he says, laughing. “But there were things that you have to know that you learn from so many years in this crazy business.’’
His main advice to the ladies was to be nice.
“Your attitude can make or break you,’’ he says. “A lot of them don’t know that you can be beautiful and photograph really well, but if you’re not liked, you’re not gonna get the gig. They should rely on their personality and not attack each other.’’
Ponce was pleased to be part of a show that was filmed in his home city.
“Miami’s beauty is well highlighted,’’ promises Ponce, who was born in Puerto Rico and moved here as a teen. “To be able to work here, there’s nothing like it. They definitely should have productions here.”
As a working actor, the divorced father of four has to spend much of his time on the “Other Coast,’’ where he sometimes feels underappreciated.
“In L.A. I’m the little fish in the big pond,’’ he admits. “Even though they have more Latins there, it’s so spread out.’’
In South Florida — because he is more well known as a former telenovela star (e.g, Dos Hogares, Perro Amor) — the soft-spoken, blue-eyed hunk is often in the gossip rags for rumored hookups.
“I like the recognition; I don’t necessarily like the fame. There’s a big difference. People tell me they like my work, so that’s why I make the effort. But being high profile can be awkward sometimes.’’
Regardless, the actor has managed to become a successful crossover go-to guy, appearing in such mainstream movies as 2009’s Couples Retreat with Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau. Ponce’s role was unforgettable as a randy, ripped yoga instructor at a sunny vacation spot.
“It’s funny. It looks like I worked really hard, but I just hit the gym for cardio, drank lots of water and lost weight,’’ says Ponce, who says he clocked in at about 160 pounds back then and is about 175 today. “I don’t know if the big screen was an optical illusion or not!’’
The South Miami High grad can next be seen in Nick at Night’s Glee-like drama Hollywood Heights, the English version of Mexican telenovela Alcanzar una Estrella (Rising Star), premiering June 18. He’ll also be in a feature film about the real estate scene, SoBe Real, filmed yet again in his hometown.
“My projects are all really different, but I’m having fun.’’