Daisy in Bloom
Posted On May 18, 2015
Daisy Fuentes has left a significant stamp on our culture. She made inroads as a healthy Latina role model on MTV in the early nineties, created a handful of businesses that bring style and value to women’s lives, and exemplifies health and wellness to many. Here, the Cuban-American host of Telemundo’s La Voz Kids shares her take on building an empire, taking compliments, and letting life show up for you.
by RUCHEL LOUIS COETZEE
photography by FADIL BERISHA
WE’VE LONG BEEN IN LOVE WITH DAISY FUENTES, the Cuban-American dream girl who brought her own indelible brand of sexy to MTV in the early nineties. Strong, confident, and vivacious, she’s a tour de force, and is living at the top of her game—now more than ever. From her eponymous lines of clothing, haircare, fragrances, and jewelry to a signature Pilates program for Wii and a hosting gig with Telemundo’s La Voz Kids (Latin America’s pint-sized version of The Voice), Fuentes is a veritable mogul, with va-va-voom to spare.
WE LOVE THE WARMTH AND SENSUALITY BREEZing through Fuentes’s bewitching Malibu beach house. It sits at one with nature’s beauty and inspires its owner’s sun-kissed, bohemian side to come out and play. We settle down with Fuentes, 48, among this barefoot luxury, as surfers dot the horizon and waves crash outside her door. Here, we speak freely about life, love, and the poignant lessons she has learned along the way.
NEW YOU: Daisy, what do you feel you learned from your time on MTV in the early 90s?
DAISY FUENTES: MTV was a great training ground. There were some brilliant people there who had to get creative on a very low budget, so I learned early on not only to have fun, but all about production, which has helped me along the way.
NY: It’s a leap to go from TV host to the creator of your own brands. Did you ever expect such an evolution?
DF: When I was young, I enjoyed doing my friends’ hair and makeup when we went out, and thought I wanted to be a hairdresser. I’d tell people I wanted to be Vidal Sassoon. I just went with what I enjoyed doing and was never that girl with big ambitions. These days, I say, “Dream big, because what life has in store for you may be much bigger than you ever thought.” That’s been the case with me.
NY: Are you good at knowing when an opportunity presents itself?
DF: Yes, I think I might be good at that. Many of my friends started out in business with focused goals, and because they were so focused they closed themselves to a lot of opportunities that came their way. Sometimes you have to take detours to get where you want to go, even if it’s further than you planned to go. I never had a very focused dream for myself. I come from a humble, hard-working family. We left Cuba, moved to Spain, and then came to New Jersey to live with my grandparents when I was a kid in school. My parents worked in a factory and didn’t speak English. I never had the luxury of saying, “I want to be this or that in life.” I didn’t think it was a possibility, though I wasn’t down on myself for it. I learned so much from the example of my parents. They taught me to appreciate a good opportunity when it arose and to prepare myself for whatever came of it.
NY: That’s a very solid foundation. How do those relationships at home set a person up for success out in the world?
DF: They’re everything. My parents struggled a lot, but they knew there were steps they had to take to create a better life for themselves, and for my sister and me. You learn from your parents. It’s important for parents to show their children how they would want them to be.
NY: If you look back to your hosting days for MTV International and as an MTV VJ, what challenges did you face?
DF: As a woman in this business, you face many challenges. As a Hispanic woman, you face even more challenges. When I started out in the nineties, there wasn’t even such a word as a “crossover”— because there weren’t artists to crossover. I went into the business a little fearless. I didn’t realize there were such challenges in the industry. Sometimes when we’re young, we don’t overthink things; we just go for them. As we get older we lose a little bit of that. Every now and then I try to remember this—to go with my gut and not overthink things.
NY: Do you think men respond more to the kind of sexy curves owned by you than the physiques of women who are willowy-thin?
DF: What men prefer—what we all prefer—is to not hear so much bitching and complaining. Just to be comfortable and confident, whether you’re skinny, you have curves, or you’re muscular or athletic, or chubby. That’s sexy. I hear women “self-talk.” When you give someone a compliment, instead of saying, “Thank you,” they say, “Ugh, I’m so fat… I’m trying to lose weight.” We all have things that we want to make better, but we should talk about things we can do to feel healthier. As a child, I never had a weight issue, but as soon as I got into this business at 20 everyone was on a diet, so I went on a diet. I didn’t need to go on a diet, but you get caught up in that. I would try to look thinner or better out of pure vanity. Now, I still experience a little vanity, but it’s mostly because I don’t want to get older and not have a good lifestyle. The real secret to anti-aging is when you start doing it from the inside. That’s something I have become passionate about.
NY: We’ve been covering women in recent issues who are owning their sexuality later in life, and refusing to give up romance—even into their seventies and eighties. What are your thoughts?
DF: If you don’t use it, you lose it—for everything! Your body, your health, with sex and femininity. Everything!
NY: To look at your past relationships, it would appear that you have a soft spot for musicians.
DF: I think musicians love me! If I were a lawyer, I’d be dating a judge. It’s the business that I am in. I try to not overthink it too much, but it only makes sense that I meet the people I meet.
NY: What have you learned from your relationships?
DF: I’ve learned that I love relationships, I love men, I love dating. I don’t need them for my life but I love it all and I want it. The most important thing I’ve learned is to build a life I’m completely content with. Happiness is found within yourself, not beside someone else.
NY: Do you think some people go into a relationship the wrong way?
DF: Many of us are looking for someone to make our lives a little brighter. But if something happens and they go away, your life should just continue to be wonderful. If something happens in your relationship and you feel like your world has ended and you have to start from scratch again, that’s a lot for anyone to withstand. I’ve made it so that I am so fulfilled and so complete that I welcome anyone into my life and it’s OK for anyone to leave— just don’t block the doorway.
NY: You co-wrote and produced a very sexy video with Richard Marx recently. Why did you feel compelled to co-write the song “Beautiful Goodbye” with Richard?
DF: He’s a man known for writing beautiful love songs. He was writing a record, in which the music is a little bit sexier, and I thought it would be interesting to write something—about that kind of relationship that you know is not going to be an “always and forever.” Those relationships happen, and sometimes you know you’re going to be with someone for a limited amount of time. That is good, too. I believe that you can have a wonderful relationship for a few months or a few years, and it doesn’t mean it’s a failure. The song is read from the point of view of a person who knows that this is going to end but it’s still wonderful.
NY: Do you think some people jeopardize a relationship unintentionally?
DF: Absolutely! If you’re living in the past or in the future, you’re not living. All you truly have in a relationship is what you’re feeling in the moment. Often, people do wonderful things together but they ruin it by thinking about what may happen in the future.
NY: You obviously love working on the Telemundo show La Voz Kids. What have your learned from the children on the show?
DF: To not overthink things and to be a little more open with what you’re thinking and feeling. Children who come to the end of their trip on the show are very open with their emotions, but are still positive. That’s a great reminder that you can feel a little hurt yet still see the good in an experience. They’re not bitter. They’ve taught me that its OK to be disappointed a little, but still have the ability to move forward.
NY: How do you feel about Cuba opening up to America?
DF: I believe it’s a really good step, but I don’t think it’s a cause for celebration until human rights are restored. If it helps the people of Cuba, then great. But for what it is, it’s a little like a fake Band- Aid on a bigger problem.
NY: What do your parents in Miami think?
DF: They’re a little closer to the issue at hand and are very passionate about it. I get it… My parents left Cuba because of political turmoil, so they don’t think lifting the embargo does anything right now.
NY: How did your parents manage to leave at the time, and why to Spain?
DF: My mom is from Spain, and at that time it was the only way we were able to leave Cuba because Castro was in full control already. Because there was some sort of alliance with Spain we applied for permission to leave. My parents [then a young couple with a small baby] received a letter back from Spain saying that we were allowed to leave on such date, and that we had to drop everything and just leave. In fact when they were boarding the plane, the officials were checking a list and they said, “Oh, you didn’t return a blender to the government,” and my mother was like, “Oh my God, the blender… I used it to make her baby food. It’s there… We can have someone return it.” They said they could not board the plane until it was returned. So someone had to run to the house and go and get the blender and return it to the government. They left with literally nothing.
NY: What about your fashion line at Kohl’s? Are you the designer?
DF: I work with a team of designers. I, myself, don’t particularly design the clothes but it all comes from what I love and my lifestyle. It has turned into a well-rounded brand, but it first started in my closet with what I liked to wear and what my sister, mom, and friends liked to wear. They’re clothes for every woman who has a sense of fashion, who’s busy in her life, and who wants to look like they’re wearing something expensive without having to spend a lot of money.
NY: What’s your take on the concept of age-appropriate dressing?
DF: I think the line has become so blurred, for both a woman over 50 and a girl in her 20s. These days you have a 20-year-old with a Chanel bag and a 50-year-old wearing a mini-skirt. It depends on your body shape and how you wear clothes. I do believe that there’s such a thing as age-appropriate dressing. When we get into our 30s and 40s, that’s when we start getting our own style. That said, one should always incorporate a bit of trend, and strive to keep it modern so that you look fresh.
NY: You’ve also gone full circle with your love of hair. How did you start your hair product line?
DF: I love it. I started out with clip-on bangs and fashion wigs. My new hair line, Secret Extensions, was a natural progression from what I was doing. We all like to play with extensions, but they’re so difficult and expensive and they ruin the hair with glue and braiding. With Secret Extensions, there are no clips and no glue. It’s just a simple headband which ads a bit of length or volume. If you wear two or three of them together, you can add a lot of volume and even play with the colors. They’re affordable and women love them. I’m not a big fan of changing who you are or the way you look. Rather I’m about anything that enhances to make us feel better.
NY: How do you stay so healthy?
DF: I eat a plant-based diet. Everything that I’ve learned and researched has led me to this philosophy. I have watched documentaries using food as medicine and felt it important to incorporate that into my life.
NY: How about that diet-out-the-window snack?
DF: Pizza is my nemesis. You should eat what you love once in a while, but most of the time I choose healthy options. I feel better that way. With knowledge comes responsibility. I’m no longer saying, “I want this but I am not going to have it because of this or that reason.” I don’t think like that. In the last few years I’ve become more fascinated with beauty from the inside-out and it starts with the food we eat.
NY: What is the tattoo on your arm?
DF: “Ohm” on a lotus flower. I love “ohm” because it reminds me to find balance within myself and find peace. And I just love what the lotus flower represents—it’s something that rises up from underneath, and becomes really beautiful.
NY: How important are friends in a woman’s life?
DF: Friends and family are everything. It’s part of what keeps you young and alive and connected. I have a great support team. I also love my alone time—that’s very important. But I’m never lonely. If you can’t be with yourself, then why should you expect anybody else to be with you?