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A few months later, using those old Liquid connections, Arias was in New York, consulting with one of the country's most notable celebrity publicists, Lizzie Grubman. He thought Miss University was on its way to becoming a reality (series), until Grubman got arrested. She became the reckless party girl who'd run over a group of bystanders in front of Conscience Point, a hot spot in the Hamptons, with her Mercedes SUV. Her Celebrities Uncensored moment was all over the tabloids, leaving her no time for Arias, so he was referred to a list of entertainment brokers. One negotiation was with Mitchell Chait, then the head of Billboardlive, who, Arias says, "was a snake who wanted half of Miss University for nothing." Chait says he doesn't comment on anything having to do with Billboardlive.
More intimidating was a letter from Trump Enterprises. "I had taken all the necessary steps, incorporation, trademark, everything. Then last year Trump hits me with a cease-and-desist notification. It said the rights to Miss Universitywere his because the name was so similar to Miss Universe, which was his organization," Arias recounts.
Arias knew he'd never beat the man behind The Apprentice in court. So the Key Rat sold his bachelor pad and his new GMC Yukon and acquired Miss University from Trump Enterprises (he won't say how much he paid, but calls it a hefty sum). "From here on in I was nervous about the control and legal aspects of show business. But I thought I knew what to expect," Arias explains.
Arias comes from a traditional Latin home (Cuban dad, Brazilian mom) and went to Christopher Columbus, an all-boys Catholic school in West Miami-Dade.
DJ Irie, the official DJ of the Miami Heat and resident at some of the biggest clubs on South Beach, has spun at many of Arias's past nightlife endeavors, and describes him as warm, not phony. "He's easy to take to, he walks right up to guys like Alonzo Mourning and his wife and just talks to them, and he always has something going."
Arias hates wasting time. He sleeps five hours a night at the most. He's perpetually brainstorming with guys like Clinton Fox, an old friend who heads Havoc Entertainment and shot the Ultra Music Festival documentary. Arias used Fox to film a professional-quality, nine-minute promo spot for Miss University,a necessity before he even considered going to networks.
Arias says he drained all of his savings and credit lines to finance the video on his own. The tab for the production alone topped $250,000. It would have gone beyond that if Arias hadn't milked close connections to secure recognizable names and pretty faces at no extra cost. Latin pop star Jorge Moreno, DJ Irie, and professional athletes Charles Woodson and Desmond Howard appear in the video. Filmed on the veranda of one of the Key's most luxurious mansions, the promo features strutting college cheerleaders and models.
Arias spent the first couple of months of this year infiltrating the L.A. social scene. He approached 23-year-old Jordi Villasuso, a soap opera actor who is now working on a film being directed by his uncle, Andy Garcia (another Key Rat). Through Villasuso and other Miami transplants in L.A., Arias was able to get in good with young network executives. Through DJ Irie's L.A. connections, Arias scored courtside tickets to the All Star game for his new showbiz friends. Characteristically, he thought ahead, filming footage of his L.A. trips for a documentary about him and Miss University. Others filmed Arias as well. A March episode of The Price Is Right shows his unmistakable mop front row, distracting contestants with wrong suggestions on prices. During the course of a few months Arias went from interesting outsider to sleeping on the couches of Hollywood players. All the while he'd twist arms for opportunities and force people to watch his promo again and again.
"When Carlos started pressing me about his pilot, I was like, What is he going to throw at me? But I got to admit, he's got something going for him. Carlos has a great rap, he has people asking, Who is this guy, why haven't I heard of him before?'" Villasuso says by phone from L.A.
Marci Wiseman, who handles legal and business affairs for various networks and production companies, took a liking to Arias after meeting him through a mutual friend, her daughter's dance teacher. "Carlos is a very interesting person, he definitely knows how to get to the right people," she says. Wiseman took Arias to Carlos Carreras, a rep at the United Talent Agency. UTA represents actors, directors, screenwriters, and producers including Johnny Depp, M. Night Shyamalan, and Alan Ball.
"I want to do to beauty pageants what P. Diddy's done to hip-hop, remix it," Arias told Carreras.
Carreras points to factors that work in Arias's favor: "Right now Miami is hot. And the fact that he's young and Latin is also working for him. He's got a good idea, his product is definitely sexed-up, we all know that sells. So we're going to get him a shot, at least one, which is more than most people get."