It was a semi posh-ish village - the kind with of huge, well-kept houses with modern architecture and manicured lawns, big purebred dogs and fancy cars. We had a few neighbors who were celebrities, no usiseros assailed them; that kind of village.
But our family didn't live in one of those big celebrity-level houses; we lived in one of the humble (but fancy) townhouses on Firefly Street. Our particular block was a row of neat, modern-looking three-floor duplexes with french bay windows; twelve units labelled A to L. Each unit's front gate faced the street; all our back doors were sliding glass ones that opened into a wide garden and a large swimming pool, shared by all townhouse owners. I lived with my mom and sibs in Unit L.
In our row of townhouses, two units away from us stayed Miss Universe 1993, Dayanara Torres.
After turning over her crown in the 1994 pageant, she stayed in the Philippines (where Miss U was held that year) and became an actress and a TV show host.
Image from here.
She moved into our street a little over a year after we did. I sometimes caught glimpses of her and she was often close enough to talk to. I never met the beauty queen though. At least not exactly.
I did have one odd interaction with her, and even if I was never a fan of hers, I wished I'd said something witty instead of skipping away like a guilty busybody.
It was December 31, 1996. I was an awkward teenager. Every 31st of December, NU 107 counted down their top hundred hits for the year, beginning with #100 sometime in the morning and ending with the #1 song at exactly 12 midnight. My Walkman was affixed that entire day; for some reason I found it necessary to know what those hundred were. I ate, breathed, watched TV and did everything with my headset on. I was lucky my mom didn't mind my mental absence on New Year's Eve.
Sometime in the late afternoon / early evening, I hoped to lessen my loserly boredom by taking a stroll. Still with my Walkman attached, I thought of going over to the far end of the pool to sit and dip my feet.
Halfway there, headphones still in place, I heard the DJ say something that sparked a clever idea in my head - and if you know me, you'd know that I find clever ideas important and that I enjoy wallowing in my musings. I don't recall what exactly that thought was, but I do remember pausing to ponder on it. I stood motionless where I was, hands on hips, head tilted upward, eyes on a small cloud to help me focus.
Careless buffoon that I was, I hadn't noticed that I stopped just outside one of our neighbors' open sliding glass doors. The innards of unit J were dimly lit but nonetheless exposed, and the owner happened to be right there at that very moment. I was jolted back to consciousness when I realized she was addressing me in a not-exactly-friendly tone. Since I was plugged into my radio, I couldn't make out what she said; it might have been along the lines of What the hell are you doing hanging around outside my house!?, considering that I looked suspiciously like a too-curious bystander over there.
Unit J happened to be Dayanara's unit, and yes, I was being spoken to by the beauty queen-turned-actress herself. I swear, I didn't purposely loiter outside her house to stalk her. But you know how protective celebrities can get about their privacy.
There she was, unself-conscious in the comfort of her own home, laid-back but still gorgeous. My guy friends would have surely wanted to be in the position I was in - looking upon Dayanara who wore only a thin, oversized olive-green shirt that showed off her figure and her mile-long legs. But I couldn't care how sexy she was; I was more concerned that she glared at me with eyes ready to shoot lazer beams. I think I made her mad.
Pretty eyes, by the way.
I also noticed that she was hanging up her laundry in the living room (It was a rule of the association that no one was supposed to hang laundry outside, to maintain the classy aesthetics of the village. Each unit did have large enough laundry areas, but sometimes we had to improvise). She had one of those foldaway aluminum racks; she was decking it with her delicates and her underwear. Right in my line of vision was emblazoned a thickly-padded push-up bra, the secret of celebrities.
Now I knew Dayanara's secret.
I didn't have time to snicker at this awkward, unglamorous sighting of a former Miss Universe. And considering she might've been pissed because I seemed to stick my nose into her personal business, this was certainly not an appropriate moment to make friends. With my lack of presence of mind, all I got to do was drop my jaw like a stunned goldfish and run for cover before she called security on me.
I thought maybe I should've apologized at a later, less vulnerable time, in the way a good neighbor should. But I never bothered to. It was just Dayanara Torres anyway.
I didn't really notice when she moved out, or whether she was still living there when we moved in '97. I didn't even notice when she left the country.
She returned to Puerto Rico in '98 I think; as far as I know she did a bit of recording and was later married to singer Marc Antony (and eventually divorced). I suppose she's more of a private individual now, maybe living in some classy neighborhood where there aren't any dumb kids catching her laundering her undies.