Rosita Fornés, Cuba's larger than life stage, TV and movie Diva.
Currently 86, Rosita Fornés still fills Cuba's biggest theatre venues, in spite of recent health and age-related problems.
This woman has been my idol since I was a little boy and used to watch every single one of her TV programs in Cuba. When I was 4, I made my mother buy a beautiful bouquet of red roses and wait with me for over four hours outside the studios at Radio Centro, in Havana, while La Fornés rehearsed a radio play. When she finally came out, she was most charming and gracious and kissed me and my mother and smiled with that big, perfect, toothy smile that only true stars are endowed with. She was so gorgeous! I had never seen anyone or anything so beautiful and so elegant in my life...
Time went on and I never lost my admiration for Rosita. She was both the standard and the inspiration I held everyone else against. In 1991, already living in Los Angeles, my friend Yazmín surprised me one morning in May with a video tape of an interview of Rosita Fornés in Mexico, where she was presenting one of her fabulous shows in the Mexican capital (there she is always received as the true legend she is). I made arrangements and we finally met Rosita that very night, close to midnight, in her hotel suite in Paseo de la Reforma. She was older but still incredibly beautiful and as gracious and open and friendly as if she had known us all of our lives. We became friends since that encounter.
I have followed her public presentations and private visits to many places in the world and have had the privilege of visiting her privately in Havana, Mexico City, New York and Miami whenever it has been possible for me to go to see her and enjoy her magnificent, unrepeatable presence.
Today I can say, without any doubts, that I am more of a friend than a fan. I still love her as a Diva and respect her status as one of Latin America's top female performers of all time, but what draws me to Rosita more than anything else these days is her incredibly modest and gentle way of being; her charming, warm, sincere and very honest manner to engage you and make you part of the conversation and of her universe, as if you, not she, were the most important person in the room at that moment.
She has also demonstrated throughout the years a quiet, non-public yet very effective and respectable way of helping people outcasted by the Communist government of Cuba (were she has always resided) and of advancing the causes of those who need the most help (the lepers at the San Lázaro Sanatorium in Havana, people with AIDS and HIV infection since the beginning of the crisis, the rights of homosexuals in Cuba, the rights and protection of the Ladies in White peaceful pro-democracy movement, just to mention a few of her most discreetly yet firmly defended causes).
Rosita Fornés took care of her elderly mother until her death at 95 in 2001. She has been the "godmother" to countless Cuban and Latin American performers (famous today) who were introduced to the public by way of her immensely popular and exclusive TV programs in the 50's, 60's, 70's and even into the 80's. Only Fidel Castro and Alicia Alonso would dare claim more popularity and press magnetism than Rosita Fornés, the most photographed person in Cuba to this day.
May she live many more productive years and may she continue to gift us with her incomparable stage magic, her undisputed mastery of showmanship, charisma and versatility and the always treasured privilege of her very special friendship.
I love you truly, Rosita... La Fornés