After 40 Years in Showbiz, Gloria Estefan Can Do Her Makeup in the Dark

The iconic musician and actor discusses Father of the Bride, getting back to her wellness routine after a promo tour, and the importance of highlighting different Latino cultures.

by Max Gao

Gloria Estefan wearing a flowered blazer, smiling
Photo by Getty; image treatment by Ashley Peña.

After paving the way for countless Latin artists, music superstar Gloria Estefan has stepped into her first leading role on the big screen, playing the mother in a new remake of Father of the Bride.

Directed by Gaz Alazraki and written by Matt Lopez, the third iteration of the beloved romantic comedy—available to stream today on HBO Max—follows Billy Herrera (Andy García), a traditional Cuban-American architect grappling with a request for divorce from his wife Ingrid (Estefan), and his eldest daughter Sofia’s (Adria Arjona) impending nuptials to Adan Castillo (Diego Boneta).

Paul Perez, a former development executive at Warner Bros, dreamed of reimagining Father of the Bride with a Latino family, and began developing a remake in 2020 with García in mind. Once he boarded the project in early 2021, García, a veteran actor known for his work in Ocean’s Eleven and The Godfather Part III, worked with Alazraki to lean into the love and strength of extended Latino families—and away from any stereotypes. When it came time to cast the rest of the family, García personally reached out to Estefan, who read the “zany and funny script” and rearranged her own schedule to sign on to the film.

“[In this iteration of Father of the Bride], the women came from a real position of strength,” Estefan tells W in a phone interview from Miami. “It delves into things that aren’t normally talked about in Latino communities, like therapy. [Ingrid] pushes [Billy] and decides, ‘Okay, this is it. I don’t want to spend our last years with an empty nest being alone in a marriage.’ And thankfully, he wakes up through the four women in his life: his mother-in-law, his daughters, and his wife.”

Below, Estefan speaks about her longtime friendship with García, the importance of highlighting the nuances of different Latino cultures, and the beauty tips and tricks she has picked up after more than four decades in the business.

You previously worked with Andy García on the HBO television film For Love or Country over 20 years ago. What are some of the memories that stick out from working with him this time around?

It’s always wonderful because Andy and I get along great. In fact, he did a cameo years ago in my video, “I See Your Smile.” He’s a waiter, and at the end, I say to him, “Is the waiter on the menu?” That was even before we worked together in the movie. What I love is that he’s always trusted me, because I certainly do not have the years of craft that Andy has—although I have worked on it quite a bit, because I respect actors very much.

When I’ve done the previous projects, I went and did my thing in a couple of days. [This time,] we all spent two months in a bubble together, and really bonded. What you see onscreen is a very natural, legitimate feeling among all of us. There are six degrees of separation [between] pretty much every actor in that film—consummate stage and screen actors here in Miami and in the Latin world. I just met the girls, Isabela Merced and Adria Arjona, but they were so wonderful and talented. And I got to meet Diego Boneta when he was in town doing Rock of Ages. This is, I think, the first big-budget studio film dedicated to Latin cultures, so it’s been a big deal for us.

The film opens with the song “Azúcar Negra” by Celia Cruz—another Cuban-American legend—but I was waiting to hear one of your songs for the wedding scene. Do your friends or family ever play your songs and make you dance with them?

Well, if it’s my daughter, she will throw me into [dancing] any time she’s DJing, anywhere in the house. I rarely put my own music on, and I think we purposely stayed away from putting my music in there, because I was acting in the lead role. We wanted Ingrid to stay Ingrid, and not turn into Gloria Estefan. Although, for sure, “Conga” would have been played at that wedding, I can guarantee you.

Celia is our diva, our shining light of Cuba, and there are some great songs. “Quiereme Mucho,” which is sung at the wedding, is a classic. I used to play it on my guitar and sing it with my mom as a kid. There’s a great new Ozuna track, and he’s from [Puerto Rico]; we really were trying to stay true to the whole Latin experience.

This film leans into the specificities of two different Latino cultures—Cubans and Mexicans—and shows the union of two beautiful, high-achieving Latino families. Why do you think it is so important to highlight those differences and similarities in cultures?

American culture tends to look at Latinos as a monolith, which is the furthest thing from the truth. Historically, I’ve always seen Latin things from different cultures get lumped together as if they’re the same—all Latin things that have nothing to do with each other, quite honestly. [Laughs.] So it was good to show the contributions of Latinos to this great country, and see us in a beautiful light of family, other than the usual ways we’ve been viewed in movies—which, by the way, is the reason that I haven’t done a lot of movies. Usually, they’ll cast me as a Latina, and it’s not in a particularly great light. With all the baggage I carry from my other career and the fact that I’m a proud Latin woman, I don’t want to strengthen those stereotypes.

What do you think that fundamental demand for cultural authenticity says about the evolution and current state of Latino representation in Hollywood?

I think they’ve seen the success, like One Day at a Time, which Norman Lear reimagined with a Cuban American family. You have Vida, Encanto—all these things that have delivered at the box office and in ratings. It’s gotten better, needless to say, not just for Latin culture, but multiculturally. We’re gonna see, of Pakistani background, a young Marvel superhero in Ms. Marvel; we’re gonna see, with Bad Bunny, the first Latin superhero. But we’re still not represented in the numbers that we exist in this country.

And the only way to “go new” is to show all of the different tapestries that are in the melting pot. We feel fortunate that Warner and Plan B would focus their energies and their money [on a remake], because this is a very big-budget movie and an I.P. that, to them, is iconic. We’ve stayed true to the original idea, but we’ve made it our own with this interpretation.

You and your husband, Emilio, are coming up on your 44th wedding anniversary this year. What would you say are some of the most important keys to a successful marriage?

Everybody asks me that. I wish I had the secret! Look, it’s about respect, communication. It’s about putting the other person first, because if you’re both doing that, then you’re both taken care of. Once you’re a couple, you have to be a couple. [If] the focus on the individual is given by the other partner, then it’s great, because you’re both really rooting for each other. The movie also highlights the modern take on family, and that’s why it’s so important that the traditional father of the bride that was in control in the previous [movies] learns something from the women in his life.

Let’s move on to the Beauty Notes questions. What’s the first thing you do in the morning, beauty-wise?

Beauty-wise, I moisturize, but most of my routine happens at night. No matter how tired I am, no matter what has gone on, I make sure I clean my face thoroughly. I use Shiseido—it’s a lovely cleanser that’s gentle but really good. Also, VenEFFECT. It’s these two gynecologists, these women who developed this line, and I use their cleanser as well. I use five different types of cream, and I change up the order. There are great creams that help with collagen. I use products from Miami MD—some capsules that work on your collagen system-wide, not just on your skin, on top of the fact that I use their eye cream and a firming cream. I also use Beverly Hills MD—the stem cell cream.

What’s your favorite form of self-care?

Exercising, absolutely. Right now, I’m on this promo tour and the one thing that really bothers me is that I haven’t been able to exercise, because we’re getting up at the crack of dawn for hair and makeup. By the time I get home, I’m exhausted, so it just doesn’t work. I go to hell in a hand basket when I stop working out, so I’m looking forward to the minute the movie is out, and I’m back to my regular routine.

What are some of the most important hair and makeup tips and tricks you’ve learned throughout your career?

I could do makeup in five minutes if I needed to—and in the dark. [Laughs.] I’ve had to put it on plenty of times on the moving bus while traveling cross-country at the beginning of my career, when I didn’t have a makeup artist. I couldn’t afford one, so it was all me. I took an extra makeup course when I was in college [from someone at] Max Factor, so imagine how long that guy had been in the business. When we were doing this class, it was 1975 or ’76. What they used was grease paint, still. You couldn’t buy a makeup kit, so we made our own out of fishing tackle boxes. I not only learned beauty makeup, but I learned how to do bruises and monster makeup. If you look at my Instagram last Halloween, I did that makeup on my kids in 20 minutes.

Use a moisturizer-based foundation. As you get older, people tend to think, “Let me pile on the foundation, because it’s gonna cover things.” Unless you have something that really needs to be covered on your skin, it’s best that it be visible, because as the makeup gets drier on your face, it adds to the wrinkles.

And for beauty makeup, less is always more: If you do strong eyes, then don’t do strong lips. If you’re gonna do a very strong lip, then maybe just an eyeliner is a nice thing to use. It’s nice to contour, as long as you don’t over contour. It has to be invisible so that it looks natural.

What is the one skincare product you can’t live without?

I could live without anything, let’s be honest. But I think it’s important to have a very fine exfoliant. Every 10 days or so, I spend two minutes [exfoliating]—I count to 120 in the shower. And when you finish, your skin is rosy and nice and pink, and then you moisturize, and it makes a big difference. It really does help get rid of the old skin cells and dry skin that’s just sitting there.

Is there a beauty trend that you participated in when you were younger that you look back on now and you’re like, oh my God, what was I thinking?

Yes, a bad one! [Laughs.] In the late ’70s, early ’80s when people did the really thin eyebrows. I looked like I had two McDonald’s arches on my eyes. I used to have one big eyebrow, and it was lovely. My mom didn’t let me pluck my eyebrows until I was 15, and I literally bled the day I did. It’s cool for a shoot and for an effect, but for everyday life, [it’s] not cute. A lot of the expression in your eyes and in your face comes from your eyebrows. So I was very relieved that my eyebrows grew back, because a lot of people didn’t have that good fortune.