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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 2)

"Even though I knew her [executive producer Alisa Belletini], I still had to go in there and meet with her because she was auditioning every model in the universe for it," says Fuentes. "Of course she didn't say, 'Oh, Daisy can have it because I know her.' Basically she told me that she was looking to change the show, to give it a little bit of a revamp. I spoke to her about my interests in the show. She wanted to really make sure that I was genuinely interested in the show and what I would do with it, if I had any ideas or comments. I gave her my input and told her I was really passionate about doing it."

Fuentes has more on her plate than just the "House of Style" gig. In July, she was named the new host of "America's Funniest Home Videos," replacing Bob Saget, who had been the host for more than eight years. Although the long-running show isn't on ABC's fall lineup, it is slated as a midseason replacement. Fuentes didn't initially want the job, but the creators persisted and eventually won her over.

"[At first] I said, 'No, thanks,' because I just thought that it wouldn't be some-thing that I would be comfortable doing. It just really didn't fit with my personality and so we [she and her agents] passed on it. The producers kept trying. They looked for a replacement but kept coming back to me," Fuentes says. "They called me and said, 'We want to have a meeting, we are changing the whole show and we know why you are passing on it, but just give us a meeting.' Finally, I just went in and talked to the producers, and they basically gave me an offer that I couldn't refuse."

The producers are allowing Fuentes to bring as much of her personality to the show as she wishes, as well as approval to change the show's format as much as she wants. She hopes to make it easier to watch, to make it more comfortable.

Fuentes is also working on a syndicated talk show. She won't disclose the details, other than to say that she has some solid ideas, is looking for suitable writers and producers, and hopes to complete a television special by the fall of 1998.

Fuentes was born in Havana, Cuba, on Nov. 17, 1966, to a Cuban father and a Spanish mother. Her parents, Amado and Mary, fled Cuba in 1969 with three-year-old Daisy. Her family left behind everything they owned, including a ranch and a supermarket, where her father and grandfather worked. Choosing Spain because of the ease of immigration, they settled in Madrid with Daisy's mother's family. While in Spain, Daisy's father worked two jobs to support the family, and her mother gave birth to Fuentes' younger sister, Rosana. After five years there, the Fuentes emigrated to the United States, moving to Newark, New Jersey, and eventually settling in neighboring Harrison.

She and her sister had a typical Latin-Catholic upbringing, Fuentes says. Her parents instilled in them very traditional values. The girls had to show respect for their elders and act with decorum at all times. Her parents taught her "how to be a good person, not to be judgmental and not to be mean. Fits did not go over well in my house," she says. "There was a lot of discipline and obedience and you had to be very ladylike. Ladies didn't curse and I still don't curse in front of my parents."

Her parents also refused to allow Fuentes to date in high school. "When I was a junior, boys were allowed to come visit me at the house. We could sit on the porch until about 8 o'clock at night; that's when it started getting dark. That was it. You are not alone with a guy until you are a proper age. You don't go to certain levels with men until you are married or you have a certain relationship."

At 16, Fuentes got her first taste of her future when she fell into modeling--purely by chance. Her next-door neighbor, a fashion designer named Dmitiri, was short a model one day and asked the statuesque teenager to fill in. Fuentes soon became the designer's house model.

Several years later, at a cocktail party, she caught the eye of the wife of Ivan Egas, the president of Univision, the largest Spanish language network in the United States. Raquel Egas asked Fuentes if she had ever considered doing Spanish television. Fuentes hadn't, so Egas suggested that Fuentes audition for a job as an on-air personality. Fuentes did and landed a job as a weather girl for WXTV-Channel 41, Univision's affiliate in New York. At the time, she was 19 and a communications student at Bergen Community College in New Jersey.

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