“I like to get the best of all the little things that I see and like in my travels — and I try to incorporate these into my daily life.”
During the past 22 years, Daisy Fuentes has helped define the perception of Latina beauty in the entertainment, fashion and merchandising industries. Born in Havana, raised in Madrid and New Jersey and currently residing in Los Angeles, she is the rare combination of All-American and Latina.
Long before there were any prominent young Latin women on American television, Daisy became the first VJ to be signed to both MTV U.S. and MTV Latino, which launched her career as an international TV star. Just as she was becoming increasingly popular with the MTV audience, cosmetics giant Revlon came calling and signed her to a multi-year, worldwide contract as a spokesperson — another first for a Latina personality. Since then, Daisy has appeared on countless magazine covers, starred in many national TV ads, hosted numerous TV shows and specials, been named to People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful, and created the Daisy Fuentes brand, which includes everything from sportswear and sunglasses to fragrances, bedding and more.
Despite her many accomplishments, Daisy is more than her talents and signature style; she’s also a celebrity who believes in the importance of contributing and giving back. Since 1998, Daisy has been the celebrity chairman for the annual St. Jude Angels & Stars gala in Miami, and she has also worked with many breast cancer awareness causes, including the Revlon/UCLA Women’s Breast Cancer Research program.
tg: Daisy, you were born in Cuba, moved to Spain and then to New Jersey. What role did your parents have in your career choice to become a model?
DF: Modeling didn’t really even dawn on me until I was in the eighth grade. I started to hear some comments, some people saying “you know you are really tall; you ought to think about modeling.” I started thinking, you know, maybe I could do that. At that time I didn’t have a clear vision of what I wanted to do. I learned a lot from my parents, from watching how hard they worked to get ahead and make life better for my sister and me. They worked so hard to better themselves. You can imagine their difficulties; they were young parents moving from country to country with babies and not knowing the language. They struggled and went through hard times and they were a wonderful example to me. They taught me to focus on what the task is, not to dwell on what the obstacles are and not to complain when things aren’t going great.
No one in my family was in show business. When I heard the comments from others about modeling it was just a dream, a fantasy. Little did I know at the time that what you envision and what you think about can come true. My career rather fell into my lap. It was an opportunity that I made the most of when a neighbor knocked on my door and said, I am short a model for Saturday for the studio I work in (located in New York). He told me I was the right height and said that I would fit into the clothes. He told me he wanted to speak to my parents to see if I could do the modeling job. And that’s how it started for me.
tg: You were the first VJ to be signed to both MTV U.S. and MTV Latino. I am curious, as a woman and as a Latina, did you experience any prejudice?
DF: I was too young and too excited to feel any prejudice. It was out there and it did exist but I didn’t notice it at the time. Looking back now I can see it but at that time my mind wasn’t focused on the negative. I just went with the opportunity and I saw it as a fabulous break for me. I felt so lucky to have this chance. When I started the word crossover didn’t even exist.I didn’t know what it was; I was just happy to have a gig. I did what I do in my everyday life; I did my job in both Spanish and English. It came naturally to me.
“Women are and have to be stronger than men; not just in business but also in life.”
tg: Have you had more opportunities because you are a Latina?
DF: Where a lot of people view being Hispanic as an obstacle I see it as an opportunity. I have something extra to offer; another whole culture. I have gotten opportunities to do campaigns and commercials in both languages and that’s certainly an added plus. I know there is still a lot of prejudice out there; we’ve come a long way since I started in the business and I never saw my being Hispanic as an obstacle.
tg: You became an actress as well as a model. How did that evolve?
DF: I tried acting for a bit but it’s not what I do; it’s not what I’m interested in. Starting out many people thought that’s what I should do so I took their advice and gave acting a chance. I was very frustrated and I got stressed going to the auditions. People would open their doors for me but when I walked in people would say you don’t look Hispanic enough, you don’t look or sound Latina. That really confused me because I thought they wanted me to act. I can do an Italian accent, a Spanish accent but they couldn’t think past that. They had an idea of what a Hispanic looked like and sounded like and it was warped. I decided to get out of acting to break the stereotype in a very realistic way by just doing more reality shows and showing more of who I am.
tg: You have to be a strong woman in this world to succeed.
DF: Women are and have to be stronger than men; not just in business but also in life.
tg: I love all that Danny Thomas accomplished and that Marlo Thomas is continuing with the wonderful St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. How did you become involved in this most worthwhile charity?
DF: St. Jude is really something extraordinary. I was invited to one of their events in Beverly Hills many, many years ago. I knew very little about the organization, but I was happy to go to the event and support it. Once I was there I was overwhelmed
by the turnout and by what I learned. What I saw on the video screen, the messages that were coming across and the statistics that I learned that night were phenomenal. I had a chance to speak with Marlo at that event and that’s when she invited me to the hospital. Cut to — I took Marlo (Thomas) up on that invitation and once I made the trip to the hospital I vowed to tell everyone I knew what I had seen. I wanted to help St. Jude in any way that I could. I knew the best way to help was to spread the message and tell people what I saw and what I had learned.
tg: You’ve been heading a fundraiser in Miami for St. Jude for more than 10 years, the Fed Ex/ St. Jude Angels & Stars Gala.
DF: Yes, that fundraiser started quite small and has become one of the most popular fundraisers in the area. I’m very proud of that.
tg: Would you talk for a moment about the Thanks and Giving Campaign for St. Jude?
DF: The Thanks and Giving Campaign is a brilliant idea done around the time of the year when we all need to be reminded of what we need to be thankful for. I am thankful for the health of children and people in my life, and I really try to remember those who aren’t as fortunate during this time and how difficult it must be for them. The Thanks and Giving Campaign includes participating retailers who give a portion of their proceeds to benefit the children at St. Jude who really need it. It’s a wonderful charity. Visit St.Jude Thanks and Giving to learn more.
tg: Travelgirl readers want to know, does Daisy Fuentes have a favorite travel destination?
DF: I have so many favorite destinations. I love to go to St. Barth’s and I love to go to Aspen. They are two different but luxurious locations. Big Sur is also one of my favorites for a real Zen, mind-calming experience. I am getting ready to travel to Singapore and I’m excited because I’ve never been there. I want to travel to as many places as I can; I love to observe how different people live around the world. I like to get the best of all the little things that I see and like in my travels — and I try to incorporate these into my daily life.
tg: What’s on your travel bucket list?
DF: An African safari. I would love to experience one, and I want to take an expedition type cruise to Alaska.
tg: Is there one item you never leave home without?
DF: Sweaters, they’re one of the best-selling categories in my line and I always like to take three or four with me that I can throw over different outfits. They keep
me cozy even in warm climates when I’m in air conditioning.
tg: This year you’ve graciously designed a bracelet and all proceeds benefit St. Jude.
DF: The bracelet is selling so well. I’m thrilled. Design and fashion have always interested me. I have a brand of sportswear and accessories that I’ve been selling for many years and my brand is doing really well. I started my sportswear line as a hobby and it’s turned into a big business.
tg: Travelgirl loves the Daisy Fuentes line of clothing and accessories. We see you’ve also included wigs and hairpieces called LUXHAIR WOW by Daisy Fuentes and you’ve launched a lovely line of eyeglasses.
DF: I work with some fabulous designers and the brand is growing; I’m having a lot of fun with it. From sportswear to prescription eyewear to bedding it’s all exciting for us. Our newest line is the hair extension line and I’m very excited about it.
tg: It sounds perfect for the female traveler; it’s Travelgirl wear!
DF: I definitely use my line [The Daisy Fuentes Collection] when I travel; the clothing is very versatile, very easy to travel with. Many of the items are wrinkle free and washable, and there are a lot of mix and match pieces. You can take four pieces with you on a trip and have eight outfits. It’s for sale at Kohl’s and we are expanding to many other retailers as well as online. For more information, visit www.daisyfuentes.com.
tg: How do you find balance?
DF: There is always time to do what drives you the most; always time to do good things. The way I look at it, I have as many hours in the day as Mother Teresa so I just go ahead and do what needs to be done.
tg: Have you returned to Cuba since you were born?
DF: I have not but I am looking forward to the day I can go with my family and not worry about any lack of human rights on the island. It’s easy to go for a lot of people but for those of us who were exiles from the island, we have mixed emotions. I do have a strong desire to see the place where I was born. My parents have a very personal opinion of communism and until there are complete human rights on the island my parents probably won’t go back.
“The way I look at it, I have as many hours in the day as Mother Teresa so I just go ahead and do what needs to be done.”
tg: You’ve worked tirelessly for many breast cancer charitable foundations. Is there a personal tie?
DF: My mother is a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed when she was only 39 and I learned a lot from her experience. At that time the discussions weren’t as open as they are now. It was very difficult for my mom but she learned a lot and made it through. She was a champ! I remember what she, and what we all, went through. Your world changes when the word cancer enters your vocabulary.
tg: What advice can you give to young ladies who hope to achieve success like yours?
DF: It’s very different today for young people than it was when I was growing up and entering the business. It’s important for young women to know that preparation is everything. If you want something, envision it, focus on it and learn as much as you can about it. Get your foot in the door somehow. Whether that means being a production assistant or a go-fer at a fashion magazine, just get involved, learn and prepare yourself, go to school. Find out what you want to do and who you want to be and head in that direction.
tg: Any special message for Travelgirl readers?
DF: I want to remind everyone that with the holidays coming we all want to give back. It’s an important time of year to think of giving. Please look into www.stjude.org. It is a great place to give a tax-deductible donation. I think that deep inside we all want to contribute to something that we feel is important and I can assure you, The St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is quite extraordinary.