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Hispanic Heritage

Daisy Fuentes

Birth: November 17, 1966
Nationality: American, Cuban
Occupation: Television show host, Actress, Model

"Chaucito, baby." That's the way MTV-host Daisy Fuentes signed off on each segment of her popular MTV Internacional show, internationally syndicated via Telemundo. From the time she first stepped in front of the camera in her first job as a Manhattan TV weather-girl, Fuentes has successfully marketed her beauty and effervescent personality before an ever-increasing Hispanic American audience.

Fuentes was born November 17, 1966, in Havana, Cuba. One of two daughters of Maria and Amado Fuentes, she and her family left Cuba in 1969 and lived in Madrid, Spain, for several years before immigrating to the United States in 1973. The family--Daisy's mother is a painter and her father a grocer and real estate investor--eventually made their home in Harrison, New Jersey, where Fuentes and her younger sister, Rosanna, learned to adapt to living in a primarily Anglo community. After some initial shyness, Fuentes became increasingly popular with her schoolmates and was elected as her high school's first Hispanic American homecoming queen. With career aspirations that included, as Fuentes told Vogue, "open[ing] up my own beauty shop because I was always doing my friends' hair and makeup," she graduated from high school in 1984.

Pursues Communications Career

It was while working as a runway model for an Italian couturier named Dimitri to put herself through college that Fuentes was encouraged to pursue a career in communications. An encounter with the Ecuadorian wife of an executive at a Spanish-language television station in New York led to her first job in journalism; after graduating from Bergen Community College in 1986, Fuentes applied and was hired by WXTV, where she served as a news reporter and weather anchorperson. In 1987 she moved to WNJU, Telemundo's New York base, where she kept Spanish-speaking New Yorkers informed of changes in the city climate until 1990.

Meanwhile, Fuentes, who found working the weather beat unexciting, decided to investigate other avenues in her chosen field of journalism and sent an audition tape to MTV in 1987. By the following year, Fuentes had become a VJ--short for video jockey--on MTV's Latin American programs. As the host of the Spanish-language MTV Internacional, Fuentes travelled to many of the 17 Latin American countries in which the popular music show is syndicated, including Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, and Venezuela. The year 1993 found Fuentes busy, both soaking up the sun while hosting the U.S.-televised summertime show Beach MTV, as well as Rock N' Jock. She also used her bilingual skills on MTV Latino, a 24-hour-a-day Spanish-language show that premiered on the popular cable music-video network the following October. In the winter of 1995, a new show called Mt. MTV kept Fuentes busy during the winter months as well, as she hosted music video-based entertainment from an Aspen, Colorado, ski resort. In 1997 she hosted the weekly MTV program House of Style.

Life beyond MTV

But chatting between music video segments was not the only thing to occupy Fuentes's time. In 1991 the versatile Hispanic American woman was cast in a recurring role as the character "Tess" on ABC Television's popular daytime drama called Loving. In 1993, she also appeared in the pilot for PBS's Ghostwriter series. In an effort to boost sagging ratings, CBS brought in Fuentes to host America's Funniest Home Videos in 1997.

In addition to her work in front of a television camera, her face graced the cover of Spanish Bazaar and Cosmopolitan in 1990; the following year found her on the cover of both Vanity Fair and Vanidades, as well as People magazine's best-dressed list. By 1995 Fuentes's hosting duties had extended to the Miss USA, Miss Universe pageants, and, most recently, with Jimmy Smits at the 1998 ALMA Awards, a televised ceremony that honors Hispanic Americans involved in the fields of film, televison, and music.

With Fuentes' repeated appearances before the camera it was inevitable that she attracted the attention of the modeling world. In 1993 the photogenic Hispanic American woman signed a multiyear contract with cosmetics giant Revlon to appear in an international ad campaign entitled "Unforgettable Women." Along with such supermodels as Claudia Schiffer and fellow MTV host Cindy Crawford, Fuentes has appeared in both magazine and television ads around the world, extolling the virtues of Revlon products. But such success has not made her forget her Hispanic American roots. "I'm well known in the Spanish market and that's something I don't want to leave," Fuentes stated in the New York Times. I don't want all of a sudden to become this Anglo superstar and forget where I started." However, Fuentes also maintained that her varied cultural allegiances were precisely the reason she was so ideal for Revlon. "It's very difficult to find a young person in the country who doesn't sound like where they're from, which is not really great when you're aiming to all of Latin America," she explained. "I pull off a very neutral Spanish accent. People come up to me and ask me all the time where I'm from."

Fuentes still considers Secaucus, New Jersey, as her home, even though her parents left New Jersey for Miami in the early 1990s. But neither distance nor fame has changed the actress's close relationship with her parents. "Latin families never let go of their kids," Fuentes explained to interviewer Susan Wloszczyna in USA Today. "I have a lot of American friends, and for them, it's like, when you turn 18, you're on your own, kid. I think I could be 50 and [my parents] would still be telling me what to do, what to eat and drink your milk."

Broadens the Exposure of Hispanics

In addition to her career as a journalist, model, and budding actress, Fuentes has also tried her hand at business as co-owner of a small, trendy restaurant called Dish, located on New York City's Upper East Side and patronized by many of her friends. Even with such varied successes, Fuentes continues to expand her opportunities and her influence: she has studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts with the goal of one day starring in a television comedy sitcom. "Do you know any Hispanics who are on sitcoms, in the movies, on soaps?," she asked an interviewer for Hispanic. "Maybe a tiny handful. That's not enough."

Receives Media Honor

Fuentes was honored as an outstanding woman in media by the Latin Coalition for Fair Media in 1992. Accepting that honor was one of the many things that have made Fuentes fully aware of the responsibilities that go along with being an Hispanic celebrity. "At first I thought, I don't need this," she told the New York Times. "I don't want to be good for the rest of my life, but I'm trying to do the right thing, and if I screw up, I hope people will realize I'm human." And her role as a media figure has made her keenly aware of the strides still ahead for Hispanic American women. As she told for Hispanic: "[Revlon's] openness to me was groundbreaking. Their open-mindedness toward me as a Latina gave me hope to get out there into the mainstream and break barriers. I wish more companies would hire us. It would mean so much to us as Hispanics."

 

UPDATES

March 2004: Fuentes' Casualwear line debuted at Kohl's department stores. Source:People, March 8, 2004, p. 102.

 

WORKS

Selected filmography

  • Loving. ABC-TV, 1991.
  • Ghostwriter. PBS, 1993.

 

FURTHER READINGS

  • Anders, Gigi. "What Drives Miss Daisy?" Hispanic, August 1993, pp. 14-15.
  • "Coming Up Daisy." USA Today, January 13, 1995, p. D1.
  • Kendt, Rob. "Everything's Coming Up Daisy." Los Angeles Times, August 17, 1993, p. F1.
  • Silver, Vernon. "Fast Forward." New York Times, April 25, 1993, p. 8; October 10, 1993, section 9, p. 3.
  • Van Meter, Jonathan. "MTV's Female Hosts Make Up Its Hottest Girl Group." Vogue, August 1991, pp. 110-116.

 

SOURCE CITATION

Notable Hispanic American Women, Book 2. Research, 1998.
Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale. 2007.
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