Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Latina Fashionista: Melena

Nothing is more inspiring than a woman who trailblazes through a man's world with such style and grace as this sultry diva of rhythm. In the manly world of salsa music, she shows the boys that the pulse of the earth is no more ingrain and natural than to woman. This week's Latina Fashionista is passionate Cubana percussionist

Born in Havana Cuba, Melena has mastered the traditional rhythms that have traveled from Africa to Cuba, to the dance floors of America. Her Afro-Cuban sound is a conversation of melodies which she plays with fierce passion. Melena is a multi-talented percussionist who is at home on congas, timbales, bata drums, and shekere. She exemplifies the sound of legendary players from the past, to the modern sound of today. Let's take a look her her glitzy performance outfits.

If you want to leave no doubt that you are the star of the show, you can't go wrong with a shimmering fringed sexy number like this one. The more she shakes that shekere, the more this sexy angelic outfit comes to life. It helps reveal Melena's inner rhythm with fantastic fierceness.

 Melena has a subtle style that stands out. She knows what styles fit her body and plays with patters, shimmer, and glitz. She keeps her lush locks relaxed, eyes natural, and adds a punch of color to her lips. These bikini top cut outfits flatter and accentuate her curves and the thin spaghetti straps give the illusion of more bare skin than you are actually seeing. Clever!

See this dress in motion in the great YouTube video of her interview on the Fernando Hidalgo Show, Miami . The flattering neckline is repeated here with an elegant medal and what better way to show great legs than a short miniskirt length. Light colored stilettos elongate her legs as she shows everyone that she can play and dance too!

This stunning lavender metallic piece has a fabulous Middle Eastern flair with that lovely fringe and see-thru veiled bottom. Her statement earrings are complimented by an understated silver necklace. Her best accessory has to be the lovely beaded shekere.

Another stunning piece is this skin-tight golden performance outfit she wore at Washington, DC's Cuba Libre. As she hits the stage, first comes catcalls followed by silence as she begins to play. Soon enough, the crowd realizes they're watching a pro as she shows her timbales and cymbals no mercy! You go girl! You're golden!

And just because she's so lovely, here are some stunning beauty shots.

Pictures of the play
In addition to leading her own band Melena recently wrote and staged her own play: Melena: A Cultural & Musical Journey into my Afro Cuban Roots. The play opened on Thursday, April 12, 2012, at the Sycamore Rouge Theater in Petersburg, Virginia. This was the first Latino production ever at the Sycamore Rouge. The play is a screenplay written by Melena and Jimmy Castro, and a production of Yamile Music/Ritmo Caribe Promotions. The cast consisted of Afro-Cuban percussionists and Melena playing herself in a story of a woman's journey to reconnect with her family through the culture and music of her native country, Cuba. Melena not only performed and acted in this play, it was her first production as artistic/musical director and choreographer.
Special Offer for La Vida Yaya readers! In order to inspire future generation of women percussionists, Melena has graciously offered to personally autograph the first-ever New Generation of Latina Percussionist 2012 calendar for the young, talented girl in your life! Get one for your daughter, niece, granddaughter, or little sister! Show them that women can do anything! Take a look at the list of professional women percussionists below. Who knew there were so many?

This offer is good for the first 10 orders sent to  Melena by June 15!

Let's support Melena who produced this calendar out of sheer will! This was her dream and none of the musicians were paid to model. Plus, she's not making any profit off of these sales. These talented women just want to inspires future generations. Now please place your orders and support these amazing ladies!

Place an order by emailing with the lucky girl's name to be included in the dedication. Tell her Yaya sent you! Price of calendar including shipping: $25

New Generation of Latina Percussionist 2012 Calendar Features:
January - Melena
February - Yuliet "La Papina" Abreu
March - Zoe Fuentes Aldama
April - Madelin Espinosa
May - Jessica "La Timbalera" Rodriguez
June - Yuleydi "Yula" Sosa
July - Ivette Gonzalez Kessel
August - Gretchen Pineda Corrales
September - Roselin Bey
October - Lidia Berman
November - Lisette Santiago
December - Melena

 Q&A with Melena

Who are your fashion icons?  
Melena's mom Myrna Valdes
Ohhh…I have so many. I love old black and white movies and how the women dressed back then. Audrey Hepburn, Dorothy Dandridge, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, etc…I could go on an on.  I love that era, so elegant and sensual at the same time. I also love looking at pictures of my mother and her sisters who also dressed so beautifully. But, I also love our modern Latina and Afro-American celebrities such as: Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz, JLO, Beyonce, Halle Berry, Eva Mendez.  I love the long dresses that all of these actresses get to wear.  I glance through all the celebrity magazine and just adore their dresses. They are of course, expensive so I could only just dream of maybe one day being able to wear a long beautiful dress like they do one day. 

What do you fuss over the most when getting ready? 
My wardrobe! Whenever I get a contract for a special event or concert, the first thing I think is, “What am I going to wear?” I really believe that what you wear makes you feel a certain way and effects your emotions.  So, I want to not only look my best for a performance, I want to feel my best.  I take into consideration all aspects of the gig, and decide from there what I am going to wear and what is best for the occasion. The worst is when they say you have to wear all black and to be conservative. Then it feels like I’m going to some kind of job that has no creativity. The more freedom and expression I have with my wardrobe for performance, the more fun I have both on and off stage!

I usually wear my hair the same but, sometimes I like to try something new. A few times in the past, I have had my hair done at a salon on the same day of an event, coming home very unhappy with the results and having to wash it all over again and start from scratch. To avoid this from happening, I experiment with a new hairstyle at least one to two weeks prior to the event, so that I am not disappointed the day of.  Otherwise, I make sure to style my own hair and just keep it simple.  The same with wardrobe, sometimes I rather keep it simple and I feel more comfortable than trying to experiment with some new look and then not feel like myself. Although, I like to try new things…I like simplicity.

What is your favorite piece of wardrobe and why?  
My gold chain with an amulet my mother gave me several years ago of La Caridad del Cobre. When I don’t wear it, I feel like I’m missing something.  It completes my look.  I feel I’m connected to my mother, family, and roots, the land where I was born, Cuba.  

What inspires your fashion sense? 
Colors are fascinating to work with. They have a way of setting the tone/mood/vibe to your image and how you feel when you are on stage or just even hanging out. But, the biggest influence on me is the type of event that I am going to or performing at that makes the final decision on what I am going to wear.

I just finished producing a play about my life being born in Cuba and holding onto my roots through the music.  I had to organize all of the wardrobe for myself and the cast.  It took me about one month to work with the theme of the play and choose what colors to wear etc…I had so much fun.  We opened up with traditional African outfits in the colors of dark blue and gold from the Yoruba and then moved to the Congo where I chose the colors royal purple and gold. The colors looked beautiful on stage.  I also chose gold for myself and a pretty lavender to close with a rumba at the end. Everything came together beautifully.  But, yes…wardrobe, make-up, hair, colors, everything was taken into consideration.

Also, being a percussionist has a big influence on my clothes.  There was one scene that I wanted to wear a turquoise dress, but I was doing a bongo solo so I had to wear jeans instead. So, I think for me as a percussionist my wardrobe is extremely important as well. Even the dresses I wear have to be very loose fitting so that when I sit behind the congas I’m comfortable.  Now, when I go shopping or have a dress made for me I have to think “Can I play in this dress?”  Usually, I wear jeans so I try to emphasize what I’m wearing with a really pretty blouse.  I also have to be sure that the blouse I wear is comfortable enough for me to play percussion.  

For the play, I had some braids done on the left side of my hair to show my African roots. I have always done this on my performances from time to time. The girl playing my mother wore a scarf around her head, because my mother was very fashion conscience and wanted to be unique and different.  So, when you see pictures of her amongst her friends, she is the only one with a handkerchief around her head. I think that was pretty neat about her.  She was independent in her own creative way. 

Preferred lip color: Soft burgundy.

Check out Melena's YouTube clips!

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