MARIA CHRISTINA NIÑO

MARIA CHRISTINA NIÑO

This creatively brilliant event entrepreneur knows how to mix moxie with charm and cha cha cha.  

Maria Christina Niño took the song “New York, New York” to heart—especially the lyrics, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”  

And make it there she did—eventually…  

In a sweet twist, Maria Christina’s father, Raul “Chuck Baby the Barber” used to cut Frank Sinatra’s hair at the barbershop of the Stardust hotel in Las Vegas back in the mid-sixties. 

To speak with Maria Christina is to be caught in the crossfire of a Manhattanite and a Mariachi. Her speech is delivered with the staccato pace of an Uzi. 

The woman possesses mile-a-minute moxie… 

Maria Christina was born to Raul and Dorothy in Las Vegas (1963). And while both her parents were of Mexican descent, both were born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  

Maria Christina calls herself a MAP (Mexican American Princess), a nod to her heritage. 

“While I never learned Spanish, the Latin culture was alive and well in our household. I especially remember the food and music—rice, beans, tamales, tortillas and lots of cha, cha, cha…” 

Maria Christina was the youngest of five children (four brothers and one sister).  

“My siblings were all born in Milwaukee. But I was a road warrior, born in Vegas.  

“You see, while my mom was carrying me, my dad had plans of relocating the family to Los Angeles. He was doing the advance work when he stopped in Vegas on the way to L.A.  

“He dug the desert and was all in! 

“My pregnant mom and her brother drove the five-kids, in a car with no air conditioning, all the way.” 

While Raul was a barber by trade, he was also an accomplished musician (drums/piano). And so while he worked weekdays out of that chair in the Stardust, he gigged on weekends at any number of venues—playing with a host of Latin bands. 

Maria Christina’s early life was pure desert bliss—playing with friends in the streets of her manicured neighborhood. And there were lots of family members too. Many had moved to Vegas and many others were only as far away as Los Angeles—visits were common. 

“By the time I hit my teen years, my brother’s owned nightclubs, restaurants and clothing stores. I recall sneaking out at night and hitting the clubs—a young girl ready to rock!  

“Of course, having four older brothers in the know, I couldn’t veer too far off course—they had my back and they constantly reminded me.” 

When Maria Christina turned fifteen (quinceañera time), her parents beseeched the little stunner to compete in Vegas’ annual National Latin Club Beauty Pageant. 

“I had absolutely zero desire. I didn’t even speak Spanish. I didn’t identify. But my father pleaded that I do it for my mother—so I did. The Sahara was my sponsor and what do you know—I won. 

“It simply wasn’t my thing. I had to ride floats in parades and appear at all these functions—and yet the only Spanish I knew was, ‘Si, Si…” 

When Maria Christina turned sixteen she moved out of the family home and in with her eldest brother, Rudy (she stayed until she was eighteen). 

We all have crosses to bear and roads to cross—we do what we must, and we do whatever it takes to survive. If along the way I am able to make people smile, then my heart smiles with them.

 

“When I hit eighteen, and with only $100 dollars to my name, I moved to Pacific Palisades in Southern California. My life-long friend Patti Sue and her mother put me up. I stayed in So Cal for the next twelve years.” 

Fearless and driven, Maria Christina soon found work with an event planning company with clients in every major city across the country. 

“At some point I discovered that one of the partners was scamming the company—skimming. I brought it to the attention of the senior partner.  

“I’ll never forget the sit-down that ensued in their Culver City office. At that meeting the senior partner decided to shut down the company. He turned to me; I’m twenty-three years old at the time, and he gave me the company for a dollar! 

“I honestly didn’t have a dollar in my purse, just some loose change, so I borrowed the rest from some of the others in attendance and signed the papers on the spot. 

“I didn’t need to purchase inventory for the next two years!” 

By the time Maria Christina had turned twenty-six, she decided to sell the business and chill for a bit. She’d done well for herself and so rather than coordinating events she decided to party instead. 

“Eventually, I met someone in the salon business and before I knew it I was front desk manager for Jose Eber’s seminal beauty salon on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. I was suddenly dealing with the likes of Liz Taylor and Anna Nicole Smith.” 

After a few years the mercurial Maria Christina felt it was time to move on. But where does one go from Beverly Hills? Why, New York City of course. The Big Apple, Gotham—The City of Dreams! 

“I was ready to take on Manhattan, but decided I’d make a quick detour to the desert (Las Vegas) to visit family before continuing east.” 

There was a hitch in that giddy-up, however. Maria Christina got hitched!  

The marriage lasted all of six-months… 

“That fairytale flamed out fast. The reality of moving on and making it on the world’s biggest stage was consuming.” 

Maria Christina made the move to New York. In short order she was hired by Frederic Fekkai’s uptown salon (refereed by Jose Ober)In typical fashion, the erstwhile Maria Christina took the summer off to spend time in Fire Island (Beverly Hills on the Beach). 

“I was on the beach checking out the Village Voice, knowing that it was time to get my tuches to work. An ad jumped off the page.” 

Needless to say, Flowers of the World, located in the World Trade Center complex, hired the go-getter, firebrand.  

“I worked for Flowers of the World for the next ten-years, moving up the food chain and eventually securing the position of Director of Special Events. 

“Oh yeah, did I mention I got married somewhere in there?” Maria Christina asked the writer, who by now was used to the jazz like tempo of her delivery. 

Apparently, Maria Christina had married Francesco, an Italian chef who also worked in the World Trade Center.  

And then 9/11 changed everything… 

“Because of my status in the company, I was able to work my own hours and I was comfortable with 11-to-7, rather than the typical 9-to-5 (of course she did, there is nothing “typical” about Maria Christina Niño). 

“In any event, Francesco had already left for work and I was puttering around the apartment, television providing the soundtrack of my morning ritual. And that’s when the first plane hit.  

“My instinct was to call the shop, but the line went dead! Somehow, Francesco managed to get a call through. He relayed sights of people throwing themselves from the skyscraper—I implored to him to get out NOW!” 

The flower shop had been flattened, only fate had kept Maria Christina from harm’s way. 

And while the marriage ended shortly after the trauma of 9/11, the shop re-opened at another location.  

“After 9/11, I rebuilt the company and then after all my hard work I was owed a significant amount of money from commissions.  Apparently, those commissions had gone to the owners, not me! I was sad, disappointed and feeling unappreciated.  

“I took my flash drives and uploaded my client list.  

“After leaving, I received a call from Pristine Events in Queens Gardens. I met with them later that day and was hired me on the spot. I was unemployed for less than a day!” 

A seafaring voyage on a yacht in Greece (with her brother) changed the landscape once again… 

Editor’s Note:
For more information about MC Nino Design Floral & Events LLC
Click here

“In Greece I met Flavio, who happened to be the captain of our vessel. 

Love struck again and Maria Christina dropped everything, moving to Greece to live with her lover. 

Before long Maria Christina found herself, once again, yearning for the New York scene. 

“I moved back to Astoria, Queens with Inge, my BFF and hunkered down, contemplating my next move. Eventually, I found a flat in Greenpoint. I was still freelancing for Pristine Events but longed for something different. 

“One evening, while reading in bed, I felt a lump.” 

And it wasn’t any old lump, it was cancer and it was malignant.  

“I decided it was time to open my own business MC Nino Designs. I needed a distraction from the cancer. I called my broker who found me the perfect studio right there in Greenpoint!” 

What a challenging time it was indeed. Maria Christina’s mother/best friend passed away as well. 

“I’m not sure if my inner survival strength was inherited from my parents or if I developed it along the way. But I figured out that no matter what this fucked up world throws at you—you have to fight through it, from the inside out!” 

Maria Christina underwent chemo, radiation—the whole enchilada. As a result, her hair began to fall out. 

“I cut my long locks and had a custom wig made. 

“I beat the cancer, and I must say, the experience focused me in a big way. Mortality can be such a noodge 

“Today I’m thriving and happier than ever. And I give a lot of credit to my strength as a woman and my Latin heritage. We are proud people—caring, giving, respectful, warm, kind and stronger than shit!” 

{Writer’s Note: Maria Christina Niño recently traveled to the Holy Land of Israel in February, 2018. She explained to the writer, prior to her departure; ‘I’m going to design and create where Jesus walked. We all have crosses to bear and roads to crosswe do what we must, and we do whatever it takes to survive. If along the way I am able to make people smile, then my heart smiles with them}. 

Latinarrific salutes Maria Christina Niño! 

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Kent Wallace
Senior Correspondent at Latinarrific
Kent Wallace has worked in the mainstream media for over 30 years. He has been a journalist, publisher, performer, art critic and marketing strategist. He has written for such magazines as Esquire, Source, Ear, ArtSpeak and Notorious (to name a few).

Wallace was a contributing writer for “High on Rebellion: Inside the Underground at Max's Kansas City,” he co-authored and authored several published books.

Wallace has hosted radio shows on ESPN (Reno) and KPLY (Reno). Wallace has appeared on Montel, The Tyra Banks Show, The John Walsh Show and the Rikki Lake show. Wallace also served as a consultant on an HBO’s hit series.
Kent Wallace
Senior Correspondent
Kent Wallace has worked in the mainstream media for over 30 years. He has been a journalist, publisher, performer, art critic and marketing strategist. He has written for such magazines as Esquire, Source, Ear, ArtSpeak and Notorious (to name a few). Wallace was a contributing writer for “High on Rebellion: Inside the Underground at Max's Kansas City,” he co-authored and authored several published books. Wallace has hosted radio shows on ESPN (Reno) and KPLY (Reno). Wallace has appeared on Montel, The Tyra Banks Show, The John Walsh Show and the Rikki Lake show. Wallace also served as a consultant on an HBO’s hit series.

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