Cover Story - Issue 96
Models often speak of wanting world peace and helping children, but there is one who is actually doing something about it. Cuban model, singer, and actress Mayra Veronica has put on yet another hat, that of a humanitarian. Myra Veronica has been hands on in supporting our troops and also our future.
Mayra got involved with the United Services Organization (a non-profit organization that provides moral support to the military) after they asked her to join the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the Thanksgiving USO Tour in 2008. On these tours Veronica travels to countries such as Afghanistan, Turkey, and Korea and rallies the troops by serenading them with patriotic songs and giving them inspiring speeches. As spokesperson for the USO, Mayra has spoke on panels, which are televised on CSPAN, with political dignitaries such as George Bush, Sr., where she has received standing ovations. She also speaks on the behalf of UNICEF to spread awareness of the organization.
Giving back to the world is only part of what Mayra excels at. The voluptuous Mayra captured the hearts of many men on Univison’s “Don Francisco Presenta”. On the show she quickly gained popularity as the curvy hostess, making her a household name within her hometown of Miami. As she is the daughter of Arturo Aruca, member of the popular Cuban rock band Los dada, many producers Mayra came into contact with through the show urged Veronica to follow the musical path. As Celia Cruz is one of her biggest influences, she gladly walked down that path. Her debut single “If you Want to Fly” hit No. 5 on the billboard sales charts, which landed her on the cover of billboard magazine, earlier this year.
However, Mayra is no stranger to magazine covers. She has graced the front of over 130 men’s magazines, including FHM, and has been featured on the cover of Maxim more than any other model.
Sitting in the W Hotel lounge dressed in high heels, fitted khaki colored pants, and matching colored top, Mayra fit right in with the chic and trendy crowd, which surrounded her. With a warm and intoxicating smile, Mayra Veronica took time out of her hectic schedule to sit with ULM and discuss humanitarianism, old school traditions, and being a freak.
ULM: The men’s magazines have made you a pretty hot commodity. Even with the government. How did you get involved with the USO?
MV: The troops overseas began getting all the magazines. And they started asking why doesn’t she come. The USO ultimately got word from them cause I sent them a ton of calendars and posters. So they wrote to the USO and they were like please bring her. The USO contacted me and asked would you like to come with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It wasn’t just a tour it was the tour, the yearly thanksgiving tour with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
ULM: That’s nuts! How did you feel? You must have been flattered?
MV: I was like how do you go from…cause ultimately I had been posing. I know what my preparation is and I know the type of artist I am. I know my value as an artist, but all people had really seen me in was a bikini. So it’s kind of like ‘ok how do you go from being in a bikini to traveling with Government?’ And it’s just gotten crazier because after that all I’ve done is Government stuff. I mean I presented at Obama’s inaugural ball with Larry king. I’ve been on the panel with the Chairman and the President of the USO and George Bush, Sr., sipping tea in his house in Texas. How [does] it goes from bikini [model] to that is pretty amazing to me. I think that’s where preparation comes in.
ULM: How many tours have you been on and what is your role on the tour?
MV: I’ve gone on a ton of tours. I sing god bless the USA for them. It’s a song that’s been out before, but I redid my own version of it. I sing it for them all the time. I do my speech for them. I’m pretty serious in my speeches, even though I’m great for comedy, I guess. Some like to think so. I do a lot of inspiring speeches and stuff. I’ve been pretty much everywhere. The tours have included Greenland, Alaska, Korea, Iraq. I’ve been to Afghanstan three or four times. Africa Germany, and Turkey.
ULM: Has that changed you in anyway?
MV: Oh my god. I used to always hear, back in the Bob Hope days, “this is the best thing that has ever happen to me”. I used to be like “well that’s a little much.” But it literally is. Once you do one of those tours it completely changes you. You realize these people are out there risking their lives and there they are thanking you for coming out and seeing them. It’s just a real experience. You don’t know how many of them are actually going to make it. And they are giving everything up just so you and me can enjoy what we have. Sometimes we take that for granted. We don’t value them enough. A lot of people are like ‘no don’t be pro-them cause then you are going to be pro-war.’ That’s not the case. I’m for them. I don’t care. The war is a political issue that’s going to happen in spite of what anyone of us says or thinks. So the fact that they are there defending what they believe in is just over powering.
ULM: Wow. That’s amazing. Maybe I need to go on one of those tours because I’m in need of a positive change. You’re also involved with Unicef correct?
MV: Unicef came about when I was asked to ring the Nasdaq bell. I was the first Cuban American to do so. And when I was going to go ring it they told me I could bring two organizations that I represented so I brought the USO and I always had a thing for UNICEF for what they do for the children worldwide. Since then I have been a spokes person for them. I speak on their behalf and try to get people more involved and more aware of the organization.
ULM:That’s great! Your father was also involved in organized movements correct? You care to talk a little about your fathers band.
MV: My father’s band was titled Los Dada, which is from the art movement Dadaism. Imagine back then a Spanish rock band. So it was pretty interesting. And they were very anti-revolutionary. So when the whole Castro regime came in it was an era where they were revolutionaries in their own way. Mixed in with music so it was pretty awesome. That’s probably where I get my rebellious nature from. Which is the very nature he is so upset at.
ULM: How is your relationship with your father?
MV: We don’t talk to each other, but we know that we love each other. We’re just not good together. So I always find out how he’s doing through my mom. And he finds out through my mom how I’m doing. He tells my mom “if I could just tell her this that and that. If I could just see her and could just tell her how proud of her I am and how she did everything.” You know stuff like that. So I get the feed back.
ULM: So he is happy with your success in music?
MV: I wasn’t going down the music route cause my father was very ego centric about the whole thing. It was kind of like his thing. And plus he was into rock and roll. So little girl…music. Now that I did all the calendars he is super happy I went into music. I used that psychology. Now he loves it. He’s like “music? Yes!”.
ULM: What’s the name of your single that is out now?
MV: The one that is out right now is called “If You Want To Fly.”
ULM: What’s “If you want to fly” about?
MV: That one I co-wrote and basically it’s about releasing inhibitions, believing in yourself, taking that leap, doing stuff that you might have been afraid of doing before. I’m all about doing whatever you fear. That’s the only way to get over it. Is to just do it.
ULM: What are your fears?
MV: You know what. This is very odd but as much as I love entertainment and as much as I love to be an artist my biggest fear was stage freight. I think I developed that from my father being so strict. But at some point I was just like I’m not going to allow this fear to stop me from who I am.
ULM: That’s crazy because not only are you an entertainer, but you are also a spokesperson for Unicef and the USO. Everything you do you have to be in front of an audience.
MV: Yes. You don’t even know. I ask myself that. How did this happened? And how did this happen that they are taking me seriously. They are actually listening to what I’m saying. I’ve had standing ovations with the Bush administration when I did that whole thing in Texas. I sometimes sit back and I’m like ‘OK.’
ULM: That’s a major way to get over your fears.
MV: Let me tell you. When I was sitting in that panel, it was on Cspan, and it was me President Bush Senior, Barry Cenice, Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, and the President of the USO. It was all men and just me. And I remember it like it was yesterday. Each one was saying their speech. I think the first one was the president of the USO. The second one was the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff and I was next. I swear to god I felt like, you know how they are about to kill people and they kill the first one and the second one and then it’s your turn. Then once I surpassed that and I started speaking and I got a standing ovation, Gary Cenice was like now how do I top that. There’s a moment when you transfer that energy and your like I’m stronger then it. No matter how afraid I am ultimately I’m in control and I’m more powerful then it and that makes you realize your own power and that’s a great feeling. We all have that and it just about tapping into it.
ULM: Right. So how is the single doing?
MV: The single got to No. 9 on the club charts so it was very well accepted at the clubs. We charted all together I think 6 charts on the billboards. The other one was dance radio. It did amazingly well. And then on sales it got #5 in its third week. Right up there with Lady GaGa and La Rue. As an artist that is just begining it was a huge accomplishment. We are also on the cover of billboard Magazine, which is a great honor. For being the first song out on the English market it did its job amazingly well.
ULM: Speaking of which. I’ve heard there is some controversy with your Billboard Magazine cover.
MV: Well it’s mostly the Hispanics. The Hispanic market is very old school. Very conventional. The mere fact I was coming out there with a snake in my hand and also with wings they felt a little bit insulted with the whole issue. Ultimately what I am trying to explain with the concept, because I did come up with the concept, is the duality inside all of us. That’s why the title of the album is “Saint Nor Sinner” cause we’re neither. A Saint nor Sinner. We actually posses aspects of both. I think everybody should instead of trying so hard to go against what they call negative, people should accept themselves for who they are. If they were more accepting, that other side wouldn’t be as bad.
ULM: I hear you. So how are you dealing with the controversy?
MV: I started getting some hate mail and stuff like that. But ultimately I have my own belief. I’m not a religious person but I’m a very spiritual person. So I have my own belief on that. I see the bigger picture. I don’t think God is sitting there and saying well this is wrong and this is right and you’re going to go to hell for this and your going to go somewhere else for that. I’m writing a book so I hope to explain that in the book.
ULM: Oh really! What is the book about?
MV: It’s an autobiographical self-help kind of thing. It’s about the whole story of how you go from nothing, literally, cause I was sleeping in my car at one point. So how you go from that to creating who you want to be and seeing the big picture. So it’s helping people see the big picture.
ULM: That’s amazing. So what is the big picture with your album? When is it coming out?
MV: Well we are going one single at a time. We have all the songs pretty much done. We’re just really strategizing how we are going to put it out there. So we are on the second single. And we will probably do a third and a fourth. And then come out with the album after the fourth.
ULM: What’s the second single?
MV: The second one that we are coming out with now is titled “Freak” and it’s hot! It’s one of those things, and I’m really critical. I’m the most critical person I think. Not so much of other people. I cut other people a lot of slack, but with my self I am the most critical person. I will look at every little detail. And with music I’m the same way. I mean with that first song, and the song is a great song, very very strong. But this one…what!. It’s amazing. Not like I’m tooting my own horn here. But I’m serious.
ULM: Should I dare ask what the song is about?
MV: Let me just say some of the lyrics are like “you never met a freak like me if you could read my mind.” It’s a very sexual song. Not sexual but sensual song, which caters to that image I have as a sex symbol as well. Not insulting in anyway just a hot party song. Pop dance completely. It’s crazy. The only thing is I’m probably going to get a little bit of the Britney Spears stereotype. But you know what she is the Queen of pop, so I don’t mind being compared to somebody like that. If I am going to be compared to anybody I wouldn’t mind her.
What kind of music is it?
It’s definitely pop. The original first track had a dash of rock in it. This one is just very mainstream pop. It’s a party record, the second one. All around it’s mostly pop I would say.
ULM: If you could pick anyone, living or dead, to make a song with, who would it be?
MV: There’s one person that I so admire. She’s a Cuban singer that passed away Celia Cruz. She’s just amazing. I mean the talent. I was able to meet her before she passed away. Every major artist went through there (Don Francisco Presenta). Spanish artists, but big world wide. She was one of the ones that went through there. I always found that the bigger the artist the humbler and the nicer they were. It was the ones in the middle that had that I’m not there yet complex. They were kind of like mean, but the bigger ones. She was just such an amazing artist in general. She would be one of them. Yeah.
ULM: How was the transition from model to singer?
MV: That’s still hard.
MV: Well yeah cause everybody’s all “well what is she doing singing?” And you look back at history and anybody that’s ever been anybody knows how to dance, knows how to sing, knows how to act, looks the part, has comedic factors. I mean its entertainment for Gods sakes. It was a tough era to go through. It wasn’t too long ago that it was so divided. And it kind of still is, but now people are seeing it again how it used to be in the 50’s. Do you remember when it was like you were this or you were that. How dare you be one thing and try to do something else. And that’s such a shame because you’re limiting yourself so badly. I mean I understand having a specialty and having a natural talent towards one aspect, but don’t limit yourself that way and say this is all that I can do. We as human beings we have the potential to do it all really. We limit ourselves.