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Miami Herald

Dayanara Torres: Moving On With Her Life

By Lydia Martin

28 February 2005
Copyright © 2005 Miami Herald. All rights reserved.

You wouldn't judge if Dayanara Torres needed to present herself as a wronged, long-suffering ex-wife with more than a few angry axes to grind.

After all, it can't be much fun to know there's no TV appearance, magazine interview or personal exchange during which Jennifer Lopez won't somehow come up.

But that's the deal when your ex-husband is Marc Anthony, Puerto Rican salsa royalty, and he marries his ex-squeeze, the queen of booty, just five measly days after your divorce to him is finalized.

It was a rocky marriage anyway, what with a previous separation (amid rumors of his creepin') and then a supermarket clerk naming him as her baby daddy (DNA tests cleared him).

But no amount of foreshadowing can prepare you for a final split just two months after the birth of your second child.

You wouldn't judge if Dayanara hadn't quite let it go yet. If she spit more than a few tacks in the direction of, say, that schmaltzy Grammy performance in which J.Lo and Marc played Hispanic Honeymooners in a tacky boudoir.

But Dayanara seems above all that. Sure, nothing like a divorce settlement with a clause about keeping your mouth zipped to keep you from going off about your ex and his new photo op.

But there's also nothing like being a mother with two little boys to raise on your own to give you the focus you need to move on. And Dayanara, who left New York after the split for Miami's Doral area to live near her sister, seems to be doing just that.

''When I wake up and see their smile, I know I will be fine,'' Dayanara says of Cristian, 4, and Ryan, 1.

She's going through the typical challenges of being a single mom trying to rebuild a career. She has a recurring role on The Young and the Restless and a gig as special correspondent on Access Hollywood. She's going to the occasional audition and toying with the idea of starting a clothing line.

''But most of my time is for my kids,'' she says.

And she's doing a yearlong spiel for Crest to help raise dental health awareness among Hispanics. Which she can actually claim as a cause close to her heart.

''I had terrible buck teeth as a child,'' she says over an icy glass of lemonade 25 stories above Brickell Avenue at the Conrad Hotel's Atrio restaurant.

The shy girl who wore braces for a solid eight years because her parents (a secretary and a mechanic) couldn't afford to keep up with regular visits to the dentist for adjustments planned on becoming an orthodontist when she grew up.

But what she never saw as anything but an unpretty girl's ridiculous fantasy is actually what happened.

One day, as she was walking with her mother through Toa Alta, the rural town near San Juan where she grew up, scouts for the Miss Puerto Rico pageant saw past the metal on her teeth and made her parents a deal.

''I had long curly hair, blond from those sprays you use in the summer; I had my braces; I was in flats and jeans,'' says Dayanara, 30, who at 17 had zero self-esteem and never any attention from boys.

The pageant folks shelled out for a makeover, which quickly paid off.

``They paid to finish the treatment for my teeth, made my hair straight and black, taught me how to walk in high heels and how to put on makeup and use forks and knives at formal dinners.''

She won the Miss Puerto Rico pageant a few months later. And at 18, she was crowned the youngest-ever Miss Universe.

''I would dream about being Miss Universe when I saw the show on TV, but living in a little house in the countryside, it was something very far away from me,'' says Dayanara, who still carries herself with a beauty queen's poise. ``I was very shy, very introverted. I was so embarrassed about my teeth. Even smiling was difficult for me. Even now, sometimes I find myself smiling and covering my mouth.''

Which is why she takes the Crest Healthy Smiles campaign seriously.

``You'd be amazed how many people I talk to who brush once a day and are proud of it. In my house, we brush and we floss. Even the little one who doesn't have all of his teeth has a toothbrush.''

She can go on and on about proper dental hygiene. But don't try to take the conversation back to the ex. How often does he see the kids, you want to know.

''I can't talk about that,'' says Dayanara, whose divorce settlement reportedly makes provisions for visits and holidays.

She suffers the obnoxious prying questions, which she gets everywhere she goes, without losing her cool. But mostly, she says, what she gets on the street is support.

``I get a lot of compliments and good wishes. And a lot of jokes about, you know, life.''

And life, says Dayanara, is getting better and better.

``I'm much more mature now. I have learned a lot of lessons, especially in the last few years. I look at everything that has happened as a blessing now. I have my two beautiful kids whom I adore, who make me laugh every single day of my life. I have the support of my whole family. I did suffer, but what I have gained -- well, I wouldn't change a thing.''

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