Stories produced by St. Peter's Journalism Students
By: Yasleen Trinidad, 04/08/2016
Wearing just a baby blue bathrobe and an infectious smile, the self-made entrepreneur, Dariany Santana, welcomed me into her NJ home.
“My father built this entire house,” says Santana looking inside her delicately constructed, cobblestone home. You would have never guessed it was once burned to pieces.
“He has an eye for that type of stuff,” she continues.
Even after making it into the entertainment industry as a journalist and model, Dariany Santana’s biggest accomplishment was making her father proud, especially after she interviewed Carlos Santana, one of the most famous musicians in the world.
“Coming from where we came from, my parent’s we’re so excited.. My dad has shown that interview to about a thousand people,” laughs Santana, “I love the feeling of making them proud.”
Born and raised in Elizabeth, N.J., Santana grew up in a working class community to Cuban immigrant parents. Watching her parents struggle to make ends meet, pushed Santana to strive for success.
Graduating class president of her high school and college class at Kean University, she has always been determined to making her parents proud.
“My parents have always supported my dreams and because their livelihood is mine and my sister’s happiness, I can’t ever give up,” says Santana.
It’s a dream that has been vivid from childhood, according to her parents. From singing and dancing, to acting out novelas, it was what she was born to do.
A career in entertainment became obvious to her after auditioning for Model Latina, an American reality television show where hispanic models compete for a modeling contract (the original Nuestra Belleza Latina).
Being only 18 years old at the time and still having braces on, Santana was still able to make the top 20 and head out to L.A. for the first time.
The problem was completing the reality show as a senior in high school. Luckily (as described by Santana), she didn’t make it to the top 10 and was still able to graduate on time.
“That was my first glimpse of what it is to be in the entertainment industry and caused me to keep pushing myself to be better,” said Santana.
It was the push the college-freshman needed. After the show aired, she was determined to making her dreams come true.
After graduating college, Santana booked her first television hosting job at Complex Magazine, then came a job at LatinoReview.com doing interviews.
“My career is like a spider-web; It all connects to different people, but, the important part is I had a goal and was proactive about it,” states Santana.
Since then, she has walked in the Mercedes Benz Fashion Show for swimsuit designer Nicolita, shot multiple international ad campaigns for Puma, and according to her, her, “biggest accomplishment” to-date, getting to interview Jorge Ramos, easily the most recognized journalist in the Latin community.
“He is someone who interviewed people like Fidel Castro and Bill Clinton and getting to interview the voice you’ve been hearing on TV since childhood was very surreal,” says Santana.
Adding to her resume, she has interviewed stars like Eva Longoria and Dascha Polanco from, “Orange is the New Black.”
“It’s cool to interview people like them because you see yourself in them.. Curvy latina women born here [United States]. It’s easy to relate to them,” states Santana.
Although some might see being 5’8 and a size 4 as a disadvantage in an industry where, according to the Association of Model Agents, models are expected to fit a size 2, being told she is too bootylicious has never been an insult.
Santana states, “I love the second someone says, “wow your butt looks amazing in that,” All I can say is, shoutout to my abuela!” She continues, “I’m lucky that my designers I’ve work for appreciate my shape and have never felt the need to lose weight.”
In fact, because of her figure, she was chosen for a campaign for her favorite childhood store, TJ Maxx.
According to Santana, “They we’re looking for a business owner and because I recently became part-owner of a Cuban cafe, I was chosen for the ad.”
Putting their cooking skills to the test and with the help of their signature Santana Sauce, her father and her opened Cha Cha Cha, a cuban-styled cafe located in Kenilworth, New Jersey.
Despite being a tv host, journalist, model, actress, food blogger, world traveler, and part- restaurant owner, Santana’s success isn’t defined by her career.
“Everyone has a different idea of successful. I have more money in the bank than I do debt and some might consider that successful, but, to me, success is something that grows. It’s the fulfillment and happiness of all aspects of your life,” she states.
So what keeps Dariany Santana driven?
“The people who look up to me keep me driven and the people I have to make proud. Those are the people I actively have to be a good influence to and show them they can make your dream come true,” she continues, “I can’t fall back on that or let them down.”