After childhood poverty and a failed marriage, Despierta America cohost Francisca Lachapel has earned fame, love and the ability to thank her mother in the most generous way.

By Lena Hansen
March 21, 2019 02:58 PM

Dominican TV host and former beauty queen Francisca Lachapel’s life feels like a modern fairy tale — these days. The author of the motivational book Una Reina Como Tú (“A Queen Like You”) made us all sigh with the Instagram posts of her engagement in the desert in Dubai. Although she kept her relationship with Italian entrepreneur and former soccer player Francesco Zampogna out of the public eye for months, fiercely protecting their privacy, she finally revealed the identity of her dreamy mystery man after he gave her a shiny engagement ring by (surprise!) getting down on one knee in December while vacationing in the Middle East.

Like any fairy tale, though, there were many obstacles to this “happily ever after” ending. In the book, the 29-year-old, who is also an actress and radio host, talks about a childhood plagued by scarcity and bitter moments in her native Dominican Republic. Her father passed away from a heart attack when she was 5 years old, and Francisca’s mother raised her as a single parent. One chapter details how her father’s absence affected her life: “I don’t even remember his face,” she once said, “I just have a photo of the two of us where he is carrying me as a little girl. That’s all.”

Instagram / Francisca Lachapel

Lachapel also describes a tumultuous home life when her mother later got remarried. “It was a very painful period in our lives. She would leave him and go back to him. They were like cats and dogs. That experience really marked me,” she told People en Español. After coming to the United States in 2010 looking for a better life, she worked selling pots and pans and as a waitress in a sports bar in the Bronx.

Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images

Then in 2015, she won the crown on Univision reality show’s Nuestra Belleza Latina, which gave her an exclusive contract with the network. Yet at the same time, her first marriage to fellow Dominican Rocky Lachapel wasn’t working out. After winning Nuestra Belleza and achieving instant fame, Francisca thanked him for his support and the life they shared. But the couple grew apart, as she details in her autobiography, ultimately leading to divorce in 2017. “The path to achieving your dreams is very difficult, and you tend to throw in the towel,” she told People en Español. “The important thing is to keep fighting until you get what you want.”

Ciro Gutiérrez

Through the ups and downs, she never forgot where she came from or how her mother raised her single-handedly. For Christmas of 2017, she gave her mom the gift of a lifetime when she transformed her humble home in the Dominican Republic into a mansion. Despierta América aired the moving segment showing construction workers re-building the TV host’s modest childhood dwelling into the house of her mother’s dreams. “Thanks to my beautiful mother for making me, with a lot of effort, into the woman I am today. You deserve this and more,” she posted on Instagram.

It isn’t just her mother that she credits for her strength through hard times. Now when she looks back at her journey, she sees the divine guidance that got her where she is today. “God has given me more than I’ve asked for. All my prayers as a little girl have been answered,” she tells CHICA. “When I look back at my life, I see that God was always there listening to me.”

Now on top of her hosting gig, she’s planning her dream wedding. “It’s unique, wonderful,” Lachapel, featured among People en Español’s “The 25 Most Powerful Women,” told the magazine of this time in her life. “He is my Prince Charming,” she adds of her future husband. “He is one of the best things that have happened in my life. He keeps me feeling excited, filled with hope.”

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