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Thriving Miss Daisy

From MTV Veejay to Model to Actress to Talk Show Host, Daisy Fuentes Is Always Seeking New Worlds to Conquer
Shandana A. Durrani
From the Print Edition:
Pierce Brosnan, Nov/Dec 97

(continued from page 1)

"I thought that I had died and gone to heaven," she recalls. "I thought that I was going to have to pay them to do what I wanted to do, that was how much fun I was having. I mean, you're 20 years old and you're hanging out with rock stars and going to fabulous parties, and then you talk about it!"

While many of her peers were studying for exams, Fuentes became an overnight sensation. She hosted the MTV "Top 20 Video Countdown," "Mt. MTV," "Beach MTV" and MTV "Rock and Jock Softball" and "Rock and Jock Basketball." She became a household name among the under-25 set and a role model for many young Latinas.

Fuentes received a phone call in 1993 from the office of Ron Perelman, the chief executive officer and chairman of Revlon. The same Ron Perelman who is chairman of Consolidated Cigar Corp. Fuentes thought the call was a joke and didn't respond. Perelman persisted. Fuentes, realizing the interest was genuine, met with him and other Revlon officials. After several meetings, the cosmetics giant signed her to a multiyear contract to represent a line of grooming products and to be a Revlon spokeswoman at events across the United States. Fuentes refuses to comment on the amount or specific details of the deal, but it changed her life as much as MTV did, making her an even bigger star.

Besides Revlon, Fuentes has had a string of other endorsement deals, including M&M Mars and American Express. She has also appeared in long-running Pantene shampoo and conditioner commercials, which were created for both the English and Spanish markets. Fuentes is also considering other endorsements, which she will not discuss before the deals are made final.

In 1994, cable channel CNBC asked Fuentes to host a talk show. Fuentes accepted the job because she wanted to show people that she was more than a pretty face, that she could do something other than just present a video. She signed a one-year contract with CNBC, which gave her the freedom to choose many of the guests on the show. Fuentes interviewed such legends as Patti Labelle and Aretha Franklin. It was a dream come true for her.

"I love sitting down and talking to people," enthuses Fuentes. "CNBC gave me a chance to do it in a way that I liked. They gave me a chance to also develop the skills to learn from my mistakes and also to have a lot of people that I genuinely loved and that I was really interested in," she says. "It really helped me learn how to do a really good interview. You have to be truly interested in the person. And being able to do it with people that you really admire and like, that helped me learn and understand what I have to do for a television show."

Fuentes left CBNC in 1995, after a year on the air. She has no regrets, noting that CNBC was really good to her but that there wasn't much room there for her to develop her career.

After her departure from CNBC, Fuentes landed guest spots on such hit shows as HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show" and "Dream On," and CBS' "Cybill," mostly playing Daisy Fuentes. In 1996 she landed a small but featured role in the Quentin Tarantino-produced dark comedy, Curdled, co-starring as Clara, a service worker who cleans up crime scenes. The film also starred William Baldwin and Angela Jones, and although Curdled didn't break box-office records, Fuentes feels that it was a positive learning experience.

"I auditioned for it because I thought it was an interesting and good way to start [my film career]. I was able to feel the atmosphere around me and see if I was comfortable," she says. "If I had had more responsibilities, then I think I would have been so much in awe of the movie set, the people and what everybody's job was, that I don't know if I would be able to concentrate on how to do the character."

Fuentes has no plans to parlay her success on television to the big screen. She is quite content with television, which has brought her international celebrity, and she continues to expand her roles. Although she is still a fixture at MTV, she no longer hosts the "Top 20 Video Countdown" or the other shows she did early in her career. Last year, when her contract with the station was about to expire, she won the hotly contested position as the host of MTV's popular monthly fashion show, "House of Style." Like the first "House of Style" host, supermodel Cindy Crawford, Fuentes has a natural charisma that translates on camera. And, unlike her predecessors, models Amber Valetta and Shalom Harlow, Fuentes' name and face are easily recognizable to the MTV crowd. While she may have seemed the natural choice to follow in Crawford's footsteps, it took a lot of persistence for Fuentes to get the job.

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