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The Supermodels of Cuba

An elite group of Cuban high-fashion models are gracing magazine covers and appearing in commercials around the world.
From the Print Edition:
Cuban Models, May/June 03

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One after another, the models energetically strutted and swaggered down the catwalk -- Carla Paneca Fernández, Dayrein Aba Estevez, Yamila Coba and Yoandra Suarez Borrego. Their entrance electrified the room. The audience, both men and women, stared in awe. They vigorously applauded for each woman.

A 5-foot, 9-inch brunette, Paneca Fernández was obviously the crowd's favorite. A former Miss Model of the World, the 23-year-old carried herself with a sassy sophistication that would have easily been the right attitude for walking down Fifth Avenue in New York or New Bond Street in London. The black crepe, off-the-shoulder top with an above-the-knee, pleated, black see-through silk skirt (all Dior) fit her body like a Tiffany's gift box holding a perfect five-carat solitaire diamond ring. The crowd roared with approval as she spun on the end of the catwalk and strolled back to the entrance.

"It was as if we were not in Cuba," said one American who attended the fashion dinner as he smoked a Romeo y Julieta Churchill. "I have never seen anything like it before on the island."

This is just the beginning, according to Bornstein. The supermodels are now organized in Havana and eager to work. And, as Veltri in New York says, the world is ready for them. The women are ready, too.

"We are proud to be Cubans, and we believe that we have something different to offer the fashion world," Paneca Fernández says a few hours before the show in Bornstein's office in Old Havana. "Why would someone want to go to Miami and use models there when they can have the real thing in Havana?"

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