Ask Mama Cubana Week 1
Where we introduce the one and only Ana Anders, a.k.a. Mama Cubana. You can ask her anything once she debuts her regular column, Ask Mama Cubana, in two weeks.
Questions regarding beauty, body, espresso, men, Cuba, Kool cigarettes, kids, work, Castro, money, travel, Jews, food, and self-esteem are particularly welcome, though she'll confront any queries that lack overt stupidity -- unless you masochistically enjoy being hacked apart with a metaphorical machete, something Mami was born with and can therefore wield with uncanny and altogether terrifying accuracy.
But you needn't be scared.
As Mami says,
Bayseek self-respect. That’s how my mother says basic self-respect. (Her heavy accent is only part of her many charms.) A lifelong glamazon who came of age in Havana, Cuba, during the late 1950s, Mami’s beauty habits were fixed and defined during the enchanting era of Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth, Grace Kelly, Lana Turner, and Leslie Caron. Hollywood may have informed her, but Cuban culture sealed the deal.
Watching Mami transform from pretty woman to va-va- voom wowza every morning in the bathroom, I witnessed the power of powders, the love of lipstick, and the pride of perfume. Every step signified femininity, confidence, and the unambiguous importance of taking care of yourself for you, not for others.
How does that position translate, exactly? Here are her four eternal beauty musts:
If you wear no other jewelry, wear earrings, preferably gold or gold-set. They frame the face and warm it -- Cubans never wear icy silver -- which is the first thing people see. Like every Cuban baby girl’s, my ears were pierced when I was one day old. Since most babies are bald, wearing earrings distinguishes girls from boys. I wore tiny gold balls, pearls, or gold-set diamond studs. Mami and I both still do. Leaving the house sans earrings is like leaving the house sans clothes.
Mami wouldn’t answer the door for the UPS man unless her makeup’s on. I mean complete makeup. Foundation, eyelid primer, concealer, eyebrows, loose powder, eye liner, eyer shadow, mascara, blush, lipstick. For Cubanas, going au naturel is considered highly unnatural. Mami can get it together in 30 minutes. Me, I need an hour. Yes. I know. That’s a lot of time. But my routine relaxes me, prepares me for the day, and assures my makeup will go the distance. I may need a blotting paper here and there, and of course lipstick reapplication after eating. But that’s it. On my days off, I settle for huge black sunglasses and perfectly applied orange-red or coral lipstick. Nude lips are not Cuban lips. We embrace, not fear, color.
3. Manis and pedis
When we arrived in this country after Castro’s revolution, Mami was shocked by Americanas’ naked nails. To her, they looked bizarre. When you grow up in a steamy, tropical climate, your hands and feet are constantly exposed. So you regularly get your finger- and toenails groomed and polished. A single chip is unacceptable. (You go home and start fresh if that happens.) My hands and feet are soft and my toenails are always polished, but my fingernails are rarely painted. I type all day and need them short. I do, however, have a Sunday night ritual involving trimming, cuticle melting, and gentle buffing to a top coat-worthy high shine.
Like earrings, fragrance identifies you as a woman and evokes your personality. Cubanas love trying new ones, but we tend to stick with one or two signature scents. For Mami, it’s Nina Ricci’s Fille d’Eve or Dior’s Diorissimo. For me, it’s SJP’S Lovely for spring and summer Chanel’s Coco for fall and winter. This romance begins almost as early as pierced ears. Once I had hair, Mami sprinkled it and my bed linens with Agua de Violetas, Violet Water. It’s a clean, classically Cuban cologne with violets and fresh orange. You have to get really close to smell it – it’s subtle -- and everyone loves it. My father even used it as an aftershave. I still keep a bottle in my bathroom. I put it in my hair at bedtime. When I awake my pillowcase smells like my beautiful parents and our dreamlike Cuban past. A piece of leetl cakes.