Friday, December 14, 2012

Charmed in Hialeah

Part four of several stories about Hialeah.

Damaris Aguiar, Miss Hialeah 2010

I first met beautiful Damaris Aguiar at a red carpet event last year on Miami Beach. When I mentioned my involvement with Yo Soy Hialeah, her eyes lit up.

At the tender age of 26, Aguiar has not only earned the title of Miss Hialeah 2010 and begun a successful modeling career, she has already started giving back to the community by helping younger women get a head start in life as they learn self-confidence and poise.

A native from Cuba, Aguiar was raised in Hialeah and still calls the city home. She taught dance at a Hialeah Adult Center before moving on to open her own dance and modeling studio in a strip mall near the Hialeah race track.

Click here if the embedded video doesn't appear.

I’m not quite sure how Aguiar does it; she remains graceful and gorgeous while managing a studio with her co-owner partner and traveling for modeling gigs. Pilares Dance Studio offers dozens of classes and has hundreds of students who come as far as Pembroke Pines and distant Miami municipalities to study with Aguiar and other teachers.

My assistant for the day, Freddy Stebbins -- whom you may remember as the gut-busting comedian in front of the camera in my Bargain Shopping in Hialeah video -- helped me hold the boom mic while I tried to capture what was going on inside the studio. Both of us were so moved and impressed by Aguiar’s work in giving these young ladies the opportunity to feel good about themselves. “This shouldn't be just a three-minute vignette,” Stebbins said. “This should be an entire documentary on Hialeah culture.”

I’ll admit, I first thought it was going to be a rather fluffy topic about superficial beauty, but honestly, I left knowing that Aguiar is making an incredibly positive impact in the lives of young women.

She breaks the stereotype.

There’s more here than meets the eye beyond striking poses and sporting gowns. I see these little girls becoming doctors, lawyers and leaders some day -- women who will not only do good, but look damn good while doing it.

And I very much admire Aguiar for keeping her passion local while extending her own wings in the wider world of mainstream celebrity. This isn’t just a story about sitting pretty and flashing your pearly whites at a camera. The mothers I spoke to saw the value in teaching their daughters everything they need to get ahead in the world.

And yes, manners, table etiquette and grace are very important. What I saw wasn’t some Pride and Prejudice “oh act this way so you can find a husband” scenario; this was an “act this way so you can believe in yourself” training. A bit more than just charm school, right?

Wish I had had this when I was a little girl.

This is a story about having the balls to be entrepreneurial in your own back yard. It’s a true modern-day Cinderella story, minus the prince. It’s a story of potential realized and growing -- all from Hialeah.

You may find Pilares School of Dance and Modeling at 555 East 25th Street, Suite 224. But watch out, they’re expanding and looking for another location.

After the shoot, Stebbins and I shared a repast. We kept chiding each other on how poor our manners actually were. Scoop and pinch? American or European style? Well, maybe we should enroll in Ms. Aguiar’s class!

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