Trini Alvarado Still Fresh And Unaffected

NEW YORK - Enter Trini, hitching up her black leggings.

That's not the entrance you might expect from a gorgeous young movie star, but it's classic Trini - for Trinidad - Alvarado. Although she's been in the world's most glamorous business since she was 11, she is, at 29, devoid of the airs - and neuroses - that generally go with the job.

Alvarado has had a grueling schedule of quickie TV interviews to promote today's opening of her new movie, "The Frighteners." It's a darkly comic horror movie that pairs her with Michael J. Fox under the direction of New Zealand's Peter Jackson, who came to fame two years ago with "Heavenly Creatures."

Alvarado credits her long experience in show business as a stabilizing force. At 7 she began performing on stage as a flamenco dancer with her parents. Four years later she made her screen bow in "Rich Kids," produced by Robert Altman.

"I imagine it would be a pretty scary thing to start acting right now, at my age, and have no idea of the expectation," she muses. "There is that `beautiful things, beautiful places, beautiful faces' media thing.

"But it's also my personality. I like to feel comfortable."

With a dozen films (and several PBS American Playhouse dramas) to her credit, Alvarado has maintained a lively professional pace over the years even though she lives in New York, where she was born and raised, and never even considered moving to Los Angeles. She works steadily, but not frenetically, which is exactly as she likes it.

"How much I work really depends on what roles I'm offered, if they mean something to me.

"But given a choice, I would rather spread the work out because I'm a homebody. It's just difficult to go away. I was very nervous about having to go to New Zealand for nearly seven months (to make "The Frighteners"). I was very tragically saying goodbye to everybody."

With her tiny features, luxurious spill of curly, jet-black hair, opalescent skin and leggy, lean (though not skinny) body, Trini Alvarado is a head-turner. She can't be unaware of that, but she seems genuinely unconcerned about it.

Ask her about her beauty regimen - diet, exercise, skin and hair care - and she just bursts out laughing.

"My beauty regimen?" she repeats, still laughing. "Not a lot, really.

"I try to dance. I'm always going back, or planning to go back, to dance class. I exercise a while and then I stop. For months. Then I start again.

"The weight thing is hard for any actress these days. The '50s were great because people could have more normal bodies. It's frightening now and I hope it changes because it's just really nuts for little girls to worry about being fat. I just wish a little flesh were more welcome."

Skin care?: "I use a facial wash that I like and have used for years and, on occasion, a scrub for around the nose," Alvarado says, shrugging.

Then comes the characteristic, blurted Trini-ism:

"My brother and I have the same nose and the same blackheads on the side of our nose. We really do."

Hair care?: "Well, I have this really frizzy hair, so I have to put a lot of goop on it to make it calm down," she says. "Just today, during one of my interviews, someone told me to try Sebastian Number 9."

And how, you wonder, does Trini Alvarado respond to the sight of her own face in the bathroom mirror first thing every morning?

"Lately I feel like I look really tired - and not just now. This whole year. It can take a toll, making a movie, especially when you're far away from home for a long time. By the end, it can leave you quite emotionally drained and exhausted."

So it's not, as much of the world assumes, wake up, wash up and greet your mirror image with a resounding "Hello, gorgeous"?

Alvarado finds that hilarious.

"No," she says. "I don't look in the mirror every morning and expect to see that twinkle on my teeth. That's kind of Stepford.

"I'm much more likely to notice that I'm getting a zit."