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HAVANA, Feb. 20th  The catwalks of Chanel in Paris are always as important as the collection itself. Parade after parade the Grand Palais is transformed into an impressive stage. Read more

Eduardo Carba and Diana Fuentes attend the Chanel fashion show in Havana, Cuba on May 3, 2016. ALEJANDRO ERNESTO/EFE/SIPA USA

Eduardo Carba and Diana Fuentes attend the Chanel fashion show in Havana, Cuba on May 3, 2016.

HAVANA, May 6th Chanel chose Cuba as the site of its first-ever fashion show in Latin America by designer Karl Lagerfeld. Among the celebrity guests at the star-studded May 4 event to present Chanel’s new Cruise collection was supermodel Gisele Bundchen, Vin Diesel (who was there filming the new Fast & Furious movie) and Diana Fuentes.

The Cuban singer/songwriter with the look of an ingénue and a voice that can go from alt to smoky lounge singer was front and center at the show, along with hubby Eduardo Cabra, one half of Puerto Rican rap duo Calle 13. Fuentes wasn’t just an observer. The photogenic, fashion-forward artist, who splits time between her native Havana and Puerto Rico, was acting as one of Channel’s Cuban ambassadors to the event, clad in a white dress from the Cruise collection.

Fuentes, who is currently working on her upcoming album on Sony Music, spoke exclusively with Billboard about her incursion into high fashion.

How long have you been a fan of Chanel and what has it been like being an official ambassador for the brand? 

I’ve always loved the Chanel aesthetic. I love that it’s a very ‘now’ brand, but also very classic. I tend to be classic in my look.

This was the first time Chanel, or any major fashion brand for that matter, had a fashion show in Cuba. How did they do?

From the onset, they tried to recreate particularities of Cuban fashion: The bright colors, the big, vaporous sleeves that bring to mind the popular ‘Congas.’ The ‘Congas’ are popular dances that take place in the street with groups of people, and they’re known for their very bright-colored outfits with big sleeves. All that was somehow present in this collection.

They also had olive colors that alluded to the more military aspect of Cuba that marks the launch of the revolutionary movement on the island. And, of course, the classic Chanel black and white. I loved it. And I loved being a guest and wearing their clothes. It was the first time I wore Chanel and I felt very comfortable and super glamorous.

I feel like the brand ambassador. They invited me to the show and I’ll also be on the upcoming cover of OnCuba magazine, wearing Chanel.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Giovanni Giannoni/WWD/REX/Shutterstock

How did this all come about?

I was on the cover of a Cuban magazine called Garbos. Chanel did some kind of research on artists and celebrities here and they contacted me through the magazine. They took me to New York to choose what to wear.

Did you get to dance with Karl Lagerfeld?

I danced everywhere. And I was so happy that they were playing traditional Cuban music. It was one of those moments where either you danced or they made you dance.

Tell me about the music at the event?

They had great musicians. Pianist Aldo López Gavilán was there with Rudy López Murcia on drums, playing with the Havana Chamber Orchestra, directed by my friend Daiana García. We’ve all worked together. And Los Rumberos de Cuba, a traditional ensemble, played the closing with the Conga.

If you had to pinpoint one special moment of the show for you, what would it be?

Simply arriving at Paseo del Prado with my husband and sitting in those reserved seats close to so many friends was amazing. People were leaning from the balconies of the buildings around us, saying hello and just pouring out good will. It was also so exciting to see my musician friends highlighted there. Finally, closing with a Conga de Cuba was very special. Everyone was able to enjoy the moment with no prejudices and just a lot of love.

Beyond having had Chanel in Cuba, what’s your take away from this event?

Cuba is in the midst of a transition where many things are happening and everything is possible. I’m open to all doors and possibilities and to having absolutely anything happen. It’s more than simply opening a window of Cuba to the world. It’s about the artists and the designers who are in Cuba and the ones who come.

When an act like the Rolling Stones comes here, more than just seeing them, for us artists, it’s all about the possibility of exchanging information, seeing a top-notch show with top production values. It’s the same thing for a designer, to be able to have access to something like a Chanel show is fundamental. And, in one way or another, it reaches the people.



A great hammerheadshark

Somewhere in the North Atlantic right now, a longfin mako shark — a cousin of the storied great white — is cruising around, oblivious to the yellow satellite tag on its dorsal fin.

In mid-July, that electronic gizmo should pop off, float to the surface and instantly transmit a wealth of data to eagerly awaiting marine scientists in Cuba and the United States.

How the mako became one of the first sharks ever to be satellite-tagged in Cuban waters is the subject of an hour-long documentary that is a highlight of Discovery Channel’s cult summer series Shark Week.

“Tiburones: Sharks of Cuba” marks the first time that TV cameras have recorded American and Cuban scientists working side by side to explore the mysteries of shark behavior, habitats and migration.

It also comes as Cuba and the United States renew full diplomatic ties, more than five decades after Fidel Castro’s communist revolution.

“The Caribbean has, I think, 20 percent of the world’s biodiversity of sharks and Cuba is the heart of that,” the show’s director Ian Shive said by telephone from Los Angeles.

What’s more, a half-century of isolation and limited development mean Cuba’s coral waters have largely escaped the kind of negative environmental impact seen elsewhere in the region, Shive said.

“The oceans surrounding Cuba are like time capsules,” he said. “You can go back and look at the Caribbean as it was 50 years ago.”

Inspiring the project was a shark of legend — “El Monstruo,” or “The Monster,” a great white caught by fishermen off the Cuban village of Cojimar, east of Havana, 70 years ago.

Reputedly 6.4 meters long and weighing in at 3,175 kg, it remains perhaps the biggest great white ever captured anywhere in the world.

“All the fishermen and their families came down. They were excited because they had never seen such a big animal in Cojimar,” fisherman Osvaldo Carnero, a young boy at the time, told the filmmakers.

Tagging a similar big shark was one of the goals of the 15-day expedition in February that brought together shark experts from Cuba’s Center for Coastal Ecosystems Research and Florida’s Mote Marine Laboratory as well as Shive’s camera crew.

They found initial success along Cuba’s south coast in a pristine coral reef system known as the Gardens of the Queen, once visited by Christopher Columbus and now one of the Caribbean’s biggest marine parks.

There they successfully tagged two large silky sharks with help from veteran Cuban diver Noel Lopez Fernandez, who wrangled them underwater with his bare hands and then rubbed their bellies to sedate them.

Surprising data has already been received from the silkys, Robert Hueter, Mote’s associate vice president for research, said in a telephone interview from Sarasota, Florida.

Not only do they prefer to stay near the reef, the satellite tags — which measure sea depth as well as location — revealed that the sharks can dive as far down as 610 meters, much deeper than assumed for the species, Hueter said.

From the Gardens of the Queen, the scientists set off for Cojimar and struck it lucky by snagging the longfin mako, with top shark cinematographer Andy Casagrande underwater capturing video of the rarely seen oceanic creature.

It is only the second longfin mako to be sat-tagged, Hueter said. The first, in 2012, roamed from the Gulf of Mexico and around Florida before turning up in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, on the U.S. East Coast.

Hueter is hoping for the “pop-up” satellite tag, worth about $4,000, to come off the shark and commence its data dump sometime in mid-July.

“Everyone’s eager to get that data,” said Shive, who recalled the two years it took to get U.S. permission to go to Cuba and for Havana to green-light the first-ever satellite tagging of its sharks.

Hueter is hopeful that better relations between Washington and Havana will facilitate more joint projects between Florida-based scientists and their Cuban counterparts just 150 km away.

“In some ways (the February expedition) was the culmination of a lot of work, and in other ways it was the starting point for what will hopefully be a new age of cooperation between the United States and Cuba,” he said.

“Tiburones: Sharks of Cuba” premiered July 7 in the United States. Discovery Channel, which launched its 28th annual Shark Week on July 5, plans to air the show in other countries in the coming months.