• Photo Credit Amedeo Turello

Photo Credit Amedeo Turello

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The Quest for Perfection in Monaco, Interview With Celina Lafuente de Lavotha

editorial & arteditorial

18 February 2019
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You have to surround yourself with intelligent beautiful women from the inside out, in order to move forward. Meeting Celina Lafuente de Lavotha is a blast of sparkling energies. You do not need a recipe for finding a muse; you only need to share your ideas with her! This is Celina!

Dear Celina, please tell us a little bit of your story...

My name is Celina Lafuente de Lavotha, and I am very proud to say I am from Argentina, the birthplace of Tango, Polo, and delicious asados, the country of origin of Pope Francis and Maxima Queen of The Netherlands! My husband and I came to Monaco 15 years ago after having lived in the United States for a few decades. I had moved there from "mi querido" Buenos Aires, transferred by Pfizer, one of the world's premier American biopharmaceutical corporations. I used to coordinate their participation in healthcare congresses worldwide, organize and manage international events. I worked for their Management Center in Florida and then got promoted to a position in their Headquarters in New York City. And as the song goes, if you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere!

Have you met your husband in N.Y.?

Yes! It was in the Big Apple that I fell in love at first sight with Zsolt, a whirlwind romance that continues ever since.  We got married at the former Helmsley Palace in Midtown Manhattan, in a fairy-tale wedding!  Zsolt was born in Hungary, lived in several countries in Europe, and we ended up meeting in the USA.

A global relationship!

Yes, exactly! We came from different continents and divine fate made us meet each other. He is the love of my life, the best thing ever happened to me! Zsolt has a son, Sebastian, who I helped bring up from a young age, and is now married with two adorable children, currently living in Switzerland.

Are you an entrepreneurial spirit?

I left Pfizer after a successful international career when we moved to Pennsylvania, and it was there that I created my own company, Global Communication Consultants, dedicated to the organization and management of international events for healthcare Fortune 500's. In the USA they really support small business and I had acquired extensive know-how and experience working for a large corporation, so I did very well. It was also in PA that I became a volunteer for the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra, learning everything you need to know about fundraising.

Fifteen years ago, at the very end of 2003, and disappointed with the political situation in the United States, we left for good. At the time, we had a summerhouse on the Cote d'Azur and used to visit Monaco often, enjoying what this small attractive country has to offer, security, a sun-drenched coastline, active cultural life, and a cosmopolitan atmosphere. So we packed our bags and descended in the Principality for a new adventure!

Have you fallen in love with Monaco?

Yes, I did fall in love with the tiny Principality, I found it very attractive and safe, a beautiful country, where over 140 nationalities live in peace, and where you are able to play sports during the day and dress up at night to go out, attend cultural events and the many glamorous soirees. I have to confess that, living in the suburbs of the USA, made it possible to be in sports clothes all day long, as it is a more casual environment.

You are involved in many charity activities in Monaco. Is it part of your character to help others?

Once living in Monaco, I decided to use my professional and volunteer experience to help in fundraising for different charity associations. I was involved with Ladies Lunch Monte-Carlo, created by the former Baroness Cecile de Massy, that was very successful in raising funds for different charities at each one of the glamorous events. I currently help several other non-profits in the communications and organization areas, or to spread their message. Being obsessed with thorough planning and flawless execution, I've been called a slave driver because I strive for everything to be perfect! I believe that, when all the logistic details are taking care of in advance, your hands are free to deal with the unexpected.

I truly enjoy helping spread the message of the relentless work done by the many associations in the Principality, such as; Fights Aids Monaco presided by Princess Stephanie; the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation; the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco whose mission is to love and safeguard our oceans and our ecosystem; the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation established to address our planet's alarming situation through their myriad of worldwide projects, just to name a few.  

I have been a member, for several years, of the Action Committee of the traditional and glamorous Christmas Ball created and organized by Sandrine Knoell-Garbagnati, with funds benefiting different charity associations. I, also, collaborate with friend and renowned Opera singer Delia Grace Noble in the organization of The Grand Ball of Princes and Princesses that took place February 14, 2019 on Saint Valentine's, benefiting the Princess Grace Foundation, launched by Delia in 2019, after she successfully organized two editions of the Grand Masked Ball in Monte-Carlo.

Very close to my heart is the working relationship, since 2017, with dear friend Federica Nardoni Spinetta, President and Founder of the Chambre Monegasque de la Mode in 2009, in the organization and management of the Monte-Carlo Fashion Week (MCFW©) she created in 2013, a top fashion event growing in prestige with each new edition.  This year's 7th edition is scheduled from May 15-19, 2019, under the High Patronage of H.S.H. Princess Charlene, bringing international designers to the Principality's runway, and recognizing personalities from the world of fashion with the prestigious MCFW Fashion Awards. As luxury and glamour cannot exist without social responsibility, we have been supporting the Princess Charlene Foundation for three consecutive years.

Tell me more about your passions, in which direction they go?

My passions have always been writing and photography. Once I closed the operations of my international events company, I had time to dedicate to what I love. I started to contribute writing articles in English illustrating them with my own photos, for Monaco Life and a few other printed magazines.

The turning point was when I took a Creative Workshop with famous British award winner photojournalist Nick Danziger and British-Canadian bestselling author, Rory MacLean. Their master class course was about the art of creating stories in images and words. The course empowered me, and both Nick and Rory encouraged me to have my own voice. So, instead of writing for other people, I decided to finally launch my own lifestyle blog to publish my stories on topics that really touch my soul and deserved attention. Nick and Rory recommended to find my own niche, as there is so much going on in the Principality, so, I came up with this idea of Monaco Reporter from the Heart of Principality.

And this is more your heart, your voice you put into words...

Exactly! As I mentioned earlier, there are many charity associations in Monaco supported by the Prince's family, plus worldwide causes such as sustainability, clean energy, and more, that I love to cover in Monaco Reporter.

General publications!

In one of my recent articles, I covered the launching of the National Energy Transition Pact in Monaco. It is an important initiative and I'm very happy to live in a country that firmly believes in a perdurable structural change in energy systems, to help solve the global warming problem. This is one of the main goals of Prince Albert and we join him in his quest because the time is now. Global warming is a reality and we have to do everything we can to solve it. The Principality can set an example for the world because even if when small you can do great things!

You are not coming from a journalistic background. You started to do this activity, right here, in Monaco.

It is true that my professional experience is in marketing, organization, and management of international events, plus my extensive knowledge of fundraising. But my passion has always been writing and photography. I used to write poems and short stories in Spanish when I lived in Buenos Aires, but after living and working for such a long time in the USA, I am totally fluent in English so it has become my language of choice.

It's not the same tone and subtlety of the language!

No! But I even started to think in English! Additionally, I took journalism classes at Hunter College an American public university in New York City. When we moved to Monaco, I started to combine journalistic writing and photography, fulfilling the creative part of my heart.

And you have your own platform, Monaco Reporter, where you express yourself!

Exactly! Monaco Reporter is my portal and I give a voice to those who have something important and valuable to say.

What is your style, how does Celina's daily routine look like?

As an example, this morning I played tennis, had lunch with my husband, took a shower and came to meet you for the interview. Afterward, I went to a meeting of one of the associations I belong, something I do on a regular basis. We attend fundraising events; go often to ballet performances, the theatre, the Opera and concerts. 

When I am not playing tennis, I have a personal trainer who comes home, Elba, who is also from Argentina and we work out all year round. No matter how I feel that morning, when she rings the bell I am ready to go!

I'm a sports fan and watch all kinds of sports, I work out regularly and I play tennis several times a week at the Monte Carlo Country Club, where we have the incredible chance to meet all the pros residing in the Principality! It's a legendary club built in 1928, presided by Baroness Elisabeth Anne de Massy, in a unique setting in the world, hosting the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters every year, with the participation of the world top tennis players.

They are training in Monte Carlo!

Yes, the best players are training at our club, sometimes on the neighboring court! We often see pros on the neighboring courts, such as Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov who has become our friend, Serbian Novak Djokovic, Belgian David Goffin, next-generation Zverev, Tsitsipas, all such an inspiration! As a true organizer, I am in charge of preparing the monthly schedule of our regular doubles matches with my buddies. It is an international bunch representing the UK, China, Brazil, Australia, USA, Italy, and even France (laughing)! Tennis is social, entertaining and keeps you in shape. I firmly believe that each day I play I have the chance to improve my game! Vamos!

There's always time for perfection!

There are so many levels of play!

Tell me what you do after sports...

With tennis and work out, it means that any meetings with the associations I belong to have to be scheduled during or after lunch and in the evening.  

I am a founding member of both Femmes Leaders Mondiales Monaco (FLMM), as well as the association Aux Coeurs des Mots; and member of the Association Femmes Chefs D'Entreprises de Monaco (Business Entrepreneurial Women Association) (AFCEM).

You talk about all these women's associations... What do you think of the idea of empowering women?

That's why I became a member of Femmes Leaders Mondiales Monaco whose President, Chantal Ravera, has just been re-elected for another term. She used to work at Monaco Info. We work together on the complementary of men and women, and several projects to help and empower women. Another Monegasque association I support from its inception is She Can He Can, created by Vibeke Brask Thomsen, whose mission is to empower girls.

I am, also, a founder member of Au Coeur du Mots, created and presided by Hilde Heye, who created a writing contest in French for children all over the world. The first was under the theme of equal opportunity for girls, while the second put the spotlight on women's achievements. The winners are brought to Monaco by the association to receive their prizes directly from the hands of Prince Albert, who is our patron. Currently, the association is working on a Poems contest by students from all over the world, under the theme "Equality between girls and boys, for a better and just world."

You have covered many events here in Monaco! Which is your favorite one?

Difficult to choose among so many dear to me! Let's say it is the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters that is organized in April, every year, at our Monte-Carlo Country Club. I cover it daily from the presentation of the Draw to the finals.  I participate with the other international and local accredited tournament photographers in the Photo Contest created by Alain Manigley, and I am happy to say I have received an award every year! The selected pictures from each photographer are published in a Collectors' Book that tells the story of each tournament, and is distributed to the tennis pros, sponsors and partners, and is also for sale during the Masters.

So, I love to cover the tennis in April, the Fashion Week in May, and all the sailing regattas organized by the Yacht Club of Monaco, including the Solar Energy Boat Challenge as it deals with sustainability and the protection of our ecosystem.

As well as the events organized by the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, whose mission is to put an end to drowning by teaching kids how to swim.

You met a lot of celebrities who are coming here to Monaco. Do you have a story to tell to our readers related to celebrities?

Well, I have met a few famous people. Let's start with Naomi Campbell who we recognized with the MCFW© Award in 2017; the Beatles Drummer Ringo Starr and his wife American actress and model former Bond girl Barbara Bach during an event at the Oceanographic Museum; the late Sir Roger Moore famous for playing James Bond in seven feature films; English musician and photographer Julian Lennon, son of John Lennon and his first wife Cynthia. Julian is also a philanthropist who created The White Feather Foundation; famous former ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov; heartthrob French actor Vincent Perez and Irish actress Orla Brady during the filming of The Price of Desire a biopic of architect Eileen Gray; I met Enrique Iglesias backstage after his performance at the Sporting Monte-Carlo, thanks to my dear friend Patzy Zobel de Ayala who is close to Enrique's mom Maria Isabel Presyler Arrastia; have the pleasure to meet Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert Kennedy, during a fundraiser in the Principality for the RFK Human Rights Foundation that she presides; famous photographer Steve McCurry when he exhibited his photos in Monaco; Buzz Aldrin, former astronaut and the second man on the moon together with Neil Armstrong, just to name some of them.

Covering the tennis tournament I have had the pleasure of meeting in person the top ATP ranking players: Spanish Rafael Nadal, Serbian Novak Djokovic and current World No. 1, Swiss Roger Federer, Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, Scottish Andy Murray, German next-generation player Alexander Zverev, my countryman Juan del Potro, and many others.

Several F1 celebrities happen to live in our building, so it is common to meet them in the elevator or for a quick chat in the gym on the premises or in the lobby, such as big smile Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, Formula E driver Felipe Massa, just to mention a few.

This is the magic of living in the Principality!

How do you see Monaco Reporter in the future?

I believe that if I were to develop Monaco Reporter financially, I may have to lose some of my freedom of expression. At present I choose to give my time, experience and knowledge, to support worldwide causes and charity associations that need to create awareness for their mission, and it gives me a lot of satisfaction receiving their positive feedback. Monaco Reporter is foremost the voice of those who care for others and for our planet!

It's a decision to make!

Yes, not everything in life is about money.

We are looking forward to keeping in touch with Celina in the future as we are doing right now, reading Monaco Reporter. 

By Andra Oprea

You can read and discover other captivating stories of Celina Lafuente de Lavotha in the upcoming book by the journalist, Andra Oprea, Untold Stories from Monaco! Stay tuned!