Malena is a former international model, singer/songwriter, mother, co-founder of the Speyer Legacy School and founder of Malena by Malena Belafonte Cosmetics for Women.
Malena will be co-hosting our Summer Kick Off and White Party on Thursday,May 29, 2014 at the Attic in New York City (right after her trunkshow at 15 CPW).
Join Malena at her SCANDINAVIAN TRUNK SHOW at 15 Central park West earlier in the day on May 29 from 1pm-7pm (thanks DilogR for letting us use your technology)
Tell Us About Yourself.
I am born and raised in Denmark. I come from a very academic family. My parents were both professors at The Royal Danish Conservatory of Music. My dad was a conductor and composer and my mom was a soloist. I started performing with both them and in school, and traveled a lot performing all over. I became a singer and later a songwriter which seemed so natural to me. I left Denmark to become a model in Paris and though it was only to master French at a level that would let me become an Judge for International affairs, after 2 very successful years, that dream of the royal tribune of law, got replaced by my real passion which was music and entertainment.
How long have you been a member of EuroCircle?
I don’t even remember when I joined. I seem to have hosted a myriad of events and been involved for a while.
How long have you been in the US and what brought you here?
I came to NYC as a model because I knew that if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere. It was supposed to be a temporary thing, before setting up base in LA. Somehow I am still here and it ended up being the other way around. I go to LA on trips and have been living in NYC for a long time now. NYC fits my personality which is definitely fast paced and adventurous, yet totally real and honest. The hard working mentality that you simply have to have in order to succeed here is just a part of me that I think my dad fostered.
What has been the best thing you have done so far in your career?
Well, anytime I am in a studio recording there is a happiness that I cannot describe. It is the creativity that fulfills anyone in music. But set that aside: I co-founded The Speyer Legacy School in 2009. One of the mom’s in my daughter’s preschool came to me in 2007 and asked what I thought about starting a very special school for gifted children. Being that my dad had been a co-founder of a school in Denmark and a brilliant mind, it was pretty natural for me to shake hands and say: “Let’s go!” and the journey began. The last one of the Fab 5 as I call us 5 that founded the school, sort of tied it all up in a nice bow, because she was this amazing lawyer who was able to get all of our ideas and enthusiasm put into a legal entity that now has become an educational masterpiece. We started with 2 amazing leaders whose view on education and skills as teachers were just Nirvana. We had 26 students and now we have close to 250 students, a staff of 50 in 85,000 sq feet that we beautifully renovated in time for the September 2013-2014 school year. Another thing I am incredibly proud of was when I did Dancing with the Stars in Denmark. It was one of those times that I will never forget. We were opening the school on the same time and I had to peddle back and forth between NYC and Copenhagen with a 1 year old and a 5 years old and my dance partner, so we lived on 2 hours of sleep a day. It finally became too hard to travel that much and we ended up living in my home country for 3 months. It was awesome for my kids to experience Danish life and also for me to be with my family every day. My husband David (David Belafonte is a producer, son of entertainer Harry Belafonte. David is an Emmy Award winning, Grammy nominated producer too) came every weekend and we all just made it work. Getting the silver was just the icing on the cake. Though both things happened on the same time, and so opposite in every way, it was incredibly fulfilling on every level and such a testament to the diversity that my parents taught me to always have in me.
Is there any particular story, moment, an award or an achievement throughout your career that you are particularly proud of?
Any achievement during my career pales in comparison to having children. Having my daughter, was the most amazing moment in my life. When she came out, she smiled, immediately started nursing and my heart just filled up and it was like: Ahhh, there you are, this was what I felt I was missing my whole life. It all of a sudden just made sense. When my son was born it was horribly dramatic, but I can truly say that with him, my cup runneth over. As a singer I had many moments; Performing live in front of 10,000 people and 24 million viewers was pretty amazing. It was an anniversary for “Fernseh Garten”, a German talk show, and they had pulled everybody in from everywhere to perform. Doing Dancing with The Stars in Europe was again one of the highlights. It was so incredible to be able to emotionally connect to a place inside your heart that your partner also went into, to become one in a dance and to convey that same experience to the audience and even to the viewers. Winning second place didn’t suck . Another performance that stands out in addition to working with Cool and the Gang, Jean Beauvoir and Harry Belafonte, was singing a medley for the Queen of Denmark. That was a highlight and an honor. On July 4th this year I have been asked to be the key note speaker at Rebuild in Demark, which is such a big honor. Following in the footsteps of Victor Borge and President Nixon at this place and time in my life is a little overwhelming.
You were a model before founding your company – can you share with us any highlights or a fond memory from your modeling career?
I was lucky to have started my career as a model and never had to waitress or do anything else to support myself. So that in itself is a highlight . I remember doing a show in Rio in front of 30 million viewers and 3000 who is who in the live audience. One of the models was such a diva. If you happened to be on the runway with her, you had to almost be shaped like a moon in order to keep your feet on the runway and move your body out past the side of the runway and keep your head over your feet so you would not fall of the runway. So one day after she finished her walk and felt she did so amazingly well that she needed to twirl and turn and walk backwards sort of making her last bow and greeting the people. So dramatic and so self-indulgent. She miscalculated the space to the steps that went backstage, and fell off the runway with such a force that she looked like a cat with stiff legs just upside down. It was as dramatic and loud just like everything she did, and so incredible non gracious, non fantastic and straight out clumsy. Everyone back stage were laughing, though trying their best to hide, but some were literally bend over in stitches. I though it was hysterical, but tried my best to hold it in. And now it was my turn on the cat walk. I tried my best, but I could no longer keep it in. I started laughing so hard that I got tears in my eyes, and now I could not see anything. So here you have this model in a dramatic outfit, supposed to look gloom and angry, and I was shaking of laughter, tears were exploding all over my cheeks, I was visibly shaking and totally red in my face. I desperately tried NOT to fall of the runway, and I think the Universe was like: this is your time to shine, I will guide you, and somehow I managed to get back in one piece, only to hear the roars and applause from the audience. …..they thought this was some amazingly directed piece of the show that was meant to touch the audience and make them feel all sorts of things… No, I was just cracking up because the b((*^ fell off the stage….
Can you tell us more about your new company, Malena Belafonte, Inc?
It is an umbrella company that houses my different project and companies. I have a production company, a cosmetics line and an agency. Facebook: Pink Pirate Agency gives international designers representation in the US in a way that they can relate to. Each country has their own uniqueness in terms of how they do business, their culture and even financial structure. We understand that and are able to marry it with the US ways of doing things, which is very different.
My cosmetics company started out as a line for women on the go, multi functional and developed into an easy to use mineral cosmetics collection and skin care line. We have so little time to take care of ourselves that the products we use need to be easy to use yet give a lot of results, and that is what my line does, yet super glam and with awesome colors.
My production company is busy. Last week we just unveiled the permanent Per Hillo exhibit at Reebok Sportsclub and now we have a trunk show for Scandinavian designers at the beautiful 15 Central Park West on Thursday May 29th. I have 10 of the designers and brand from my Pink Pirate Agency showcasing their collections, from raw diamonds to crocodile bags. Pretty cool stuff.
You do a lot of wonderful charitable work and fundraising. What organizations do you work with?
I sort of jumped head first into charity work by taking over Cindy Crawford’s vice president position of an organization called DISHES. This was the first charity out of the fashion industry benefiting pediatric AIDS and HIV. Once we started the Speyer Legacy School, that became my main focus, though I also joined the board of Time In for Kids, which gives art education to the most at risk schools in NYC. I am currently also on the board of The Danish American Society and The Hans Christian Andersen Storytelling Foundation.
What makes Denmark so special and where in Denmark are you originally from?
I am from Jyderup, which is 1 hour from Copenhagen. Denmark is a beautiful country that especially in the summer is so lush and beautiful. Danes are nice and real, generous and fun. I can say that the nightlife in Denmark is something totally unique. Partying is in the genes, but it is not generally destructive partying, it is just all out, dancing, having fun, staying up til 6 am kind of partying. And on the other hand, we invented the word HYGGE, which sort of translates into cosy, and everyone hangs out, gets together and the whole lifestyle is all about hygge.
What time of year is the best to visit Denmark and the must see places when visiting there?
Summer. May and July and August. And of course Christmas. There is nothing like Danish Christmas!
What places do you like best in NYC and why..any favorite cafes, restaurants?
I love the Upper West Side. There are so many great places. It is very cosy. It is sort of where show biz families live, because they are left alone and there is more space than downtown. Shopping on Columbus, Sunday Flea Market, Museum of Natural History, Nice Matin for lunch and of course Central Park and The Hans Christian Anderson Statue.
How can people get in touch with you?
My website: http://www.malenabelafonte.com