The Beauty of Being Cuban

I do not need the New York Times Styles section to tell me Cubans tend to care about their grooming.  As this slideshow reveals, they have been an Instagram-ready people since always.  Two of the biggest editorial hairdressers who have helped shape trends for decades Orlando Pita and Oribe Canales are both Cuban.  Raul Martinez, Corporate Creative  Director of Vogue. Cuban.  And I bet  they owe it in part to their perfectionist moms.

A flip through these photos of  Miami Cuban exiles reveals a mix of pre-revolution and post-revolution beauties, united by their million dollar looks. Trust me, that no one in these pictures left Cuba with a million bucks, perhaps a chain-link quinceanera bracelet hidden inside a hairbun…a perfect hairbun. You just can’t keep a resourceful Cubana down and you can’t keep her away from the nailpolish and aretes (always). My mom bought her timelessly chic, empire waist wedding dress on sale for 60 bucks from a  Jordan Marsh, and my Abuela Mima reworked the veil so that my sister and I used it for our first communions.  It was both a practical and sentimental gesture. In beauty as in life,  to be Cuban is to be creative, to be tough, to be loyal and to persevere  That mantra is woven into the fabric of our upbringing. These moms and abuelas did something right because among my bevy of Cubana friends I polled for this piece there are two college professors, a high-ranking executive at Univision and a founder of a pr firm, among other pretty legit professions.  I’m not saying that using Violetas on your baby will make them ambitious or a genius, but hey it can’t hurt and it smells goooood.

See below for a few of  the rituals and products synonymous with Cuban-American girlhood. 

Augustin Reyes and Violetas:  I don’t understand how these scents aren’t a global phenomena.    Annick Goutal has a violet perfume and it smells exactly like this but this cost like seven dollars. My baby nurse informed me that using this on my child was a “no-no.”  I fired her.

Coty Airspun Powders: This scented powder actually leaves a great matte finish and the timeless packaging is still eye-catching.

Ponds Cold Cream: A classic that is one of the best tough makeup removers around. Super hydrating and The Rockettes makeup remover of choice!

Mirta de Perales:   Mirta tiene la respuestaThis range is best for drier hair types

Oil  of Olay:   That pink bottle and lightly-fragranced elixir graced most of our medicine cabinets in the 80s. Please note the awesome original pink of that packaging. Die.

Revlon Lipsticks:  Cherries in the Snow, a true blue red is a popular choice, discreetly bold!

Manicures: Weekly. Period.

Aretes/Earrings at Birth, Arritos/Bangles at Fifteen:   It is still a source of pain to my mom that I never wear earrings, but my grandmother’s chain-link bracelet is a constant.  Family jewelry is typically the accessory of choice

El Sentido Del Pudor/Modesty : Said differently, just because you can show everything doesn’t mean you should. Show either cleavage or leg, not both – leave something to the imagination.  A Cuban mom or abuela would not approve of the W editorials of Adriana Lima prancing around Old Havana in diaphanous attire. “Ñina, ponte los pantalones!/Girl, put on some pants!”

It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed: Cuban moms aren’t into greasy skin, unstudied style or ripped anything. They are probably the only females on the planet that aren’t into 90s-era Kate Moss.

Brutal Honesty and High Standards:  My Abuela Tete often noted that when she was young “Tenia una cara fea, pero grand cuerpo. I had an ugly face but a great body.” She’s the smoke show in the polka-dotted dress.  Gain five pounds, mess up your eyeliner, stain your shirt, they are going to see it…and tell you to fix it before you leave the house…Sigh.

We love a good nickname: Tete, Mima, Poldi, Titi, Merci, Ola, Kuku, Ela, Evita, Ellie, Telly, CeCe, Noni, Isa……I can go on.    

Perfectly Straight Parts and No More Tangles:  Particularly resonates among my curly-headed Cubanas, this lotion was put to good use to create Shirley Temple ringlets, braided styles and perfect pig tails, you know like Thalia in my favorite telenovela of all time, Quinceanera.  A must view from 1987.  Watching this now makes me a little uncomfortable. 


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