“When I was little,” Ara Celi says, “I used to watch TV and ask, ‘How do you get on there?’” At 19 the El Paso native set out for Hollywood to answer that question; once there, she quickly learned the three most important words in show business: audition, audition, audition. She found steady work on television, winning roles on a Spanish-language soap opera and the campy hit syndicated show Buffy the Vampire Slayer before landing her first feature film role in Looking for Lola, directed by B-movie baron Boaz Davidson. Today the 23-year-old Celi is hoping to graduate to the A-list of leading ladies after her star turn in The Hangman’s Daughter, Austinite Robert Rodriguez’s forthcoming sequel to From Dusk Till Dawn, which wraps in South Africa this month. The onetime beauty queen—she was crowned Miss 1994 Texas World—has such an excited manner of speaking that you can never doubt her determination. “I would love, love, love to direct someday,” she says. “I’m always trying to learn what I can on the set. Sometimes I don’t agree with a director’s choice, but I’m not in a position to say anything . . . yet.”