This “Cinderella” story stars a young girl living in poverty in the cramped Santo Domingo slum of Villa Juana (Dominican Republic). From Slum to Cyber-Queen—this is a story of immense determination, guts and gusto!
Indeed, Meryland Cuevas has achieved massive social media success—the “Fear Crusher” and “BS Slayer” is a producer, director and host of the hit Facebook weekly show “En Vivo Con Meryland.” (The show recently received an award as Best Show in Spanish by the Streaming Awards 2017).
Mery is also CEO and Founder of Meryland Cuevas International and the hugely popular award-winning blog Otros 20 Pesos.
Did I mention Mery is also a major motivational, advocacy and empowerment player in social media?
Well, it wasn’t always that way. In fact, far from it.
Meryland was born in the Dominican Republic in 1974—the first of Lucia and Armando’s two daughters.
“Humble origins,” Meryland said, neither shamed nor embarrassed. “No running water, no bathroom, no telephone, I shared a bed with my sister—we’d all take turns toting a large tin pail to and from the communal neighborhood well.”
Trauma struck the bright, but painfully shy, little one when she was six-years old. That’s when her construction worker father made the move to Puerto Rico. Far from abandoning his family, Armando sought a better station for his brood.
But try explaining that to a six-year old “daddy’s girl!”
“I was a wreck. I cried” (Mery choked up as we spoke).
I put myself out there for the world to see. I had a voice and a need to share!
“I refused to eat. I made myself terribly sick—anemic—I felt lost without my father—adrift and unloved.”
Mery remembers her mom loading her up with beets and iron rich foods; she doted on the forlorn lass—doing all she could to keep her spirits up.
With her father in Puerto Rico, paving the way for the family’s eventual move, Mery’s mother took on domestic work, her mother’s uncle filling in the patriarchal role, and watching the kids when they’d return from school.
Mery’s mom put a premium on education and she scrimped and saved in order to send Mery to a decent private school in Santo Domingo—Mery excelled.
In a few years (which seemed a lifetime), Mery’s father returned—at the age of twelve her family, reunited and moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The family lived in a nice apartment in the Santurce neighborhood of San Juan.
“It was bliss. We were together again, in a new country with running water, a toilet and a new school—a new life!”
The private education in the Dominican Republic paid off, as Mery was considered an advanced student in her Puerto Rican high-school
“I was the youngest student in the school, but still a wall-flower,” Mery said, laughing at the irony of her eventual persona as a ‘Fear Crusher—BS Slayer!’”
At the age of 17- the wunderkind enrolled in La Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico. In a sweet twist of fate, her mother, who had previously dropped out of college (out of necessity) also enrolled—at the same University.
“We would pass one another in the hallways.”
By the time Mery turned 18 she had blossomed. She’d adapted to the less restricted mien of her new country, and found her parents typical Dominican ways stifling and somewhat oppressive.
“I wanted to get-away, be independent, spread my wings — I enlisted in the Army.”
It was another profound happenstance, however, which forced the “freedom” issue. You see, Mery had started a relationship—with a girl. She moved out of the family home shortly thereafter…
Mery spent eight-years serving in the Army Reserves.
Meryland fortified her education ultimately earning her Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Phoenix in Puerto Rico (Science of Business Administration). She continued with her graduate studies in Business Administration.
Along the way, however, a life changing moment occurred. In 2005 she had a son. And while the sire had no influence or interest in being a father, the experience was the turning point in Mery’s life.
“My priorities changed overnight.”
Meryland’s sense of family was reignited, and with a child on the horizon, it strengthened the bond with her parents and buried past history under familial love.
“I wanted to help and do something special for both my parents, and I assisted my mother and father in the purchase of a two-family home where we all could live. In that house my son was born.
“My sexuality was no longer an issue and I began getting very much involved in LGBT issues.”
To speak with Meryland is to be awash in gut-wrenching honesty and enthusiasm.
“At this point in my life I did some serious soul-searching. As a result of a bitter case of “love lost” I had to evaluate my emotional make-up. This self-exploration forced me to confront the fact that I had to change myself—evolve—for my sake, the sake of my son and those around me.”
This healthy personal conversion and an issue of Gay Rights in Puerto Rico ignited Mery’s thirst for social media.
“I put myself out there for the world to see. I had a voice and a need to share!”
And share she did!
Meryland became involved with other activists and soon she was invited to speak at events, asked to co-write a book, collaborate with any number of publications and speak on radio—it wasn’t long before Mery was a well-known, highly respected voice in the Puerto Rican Community.
But another life changing moment was on the horizon…
While attending an LGBT event in Miami, Meryland met the gal of her dreams—the love of her life—Linda!
In 2013, Mery, heeding the advice of Polonius in Hamlet, “To thine own self be true,” moved, with her son, to New Jersey, to live with Linda.
Comforted and in a loving, nurturing relationship Meryland’s star continued to rise. She is an internationally recognized Motivational Speaker, a certified Life and Assertiveness Coach, an award-winning Latina content creator, Social Media influencer and global advocate for equality.
“You get out of life what you put into it,” Mery exclaimed as we wrapped up our chat. “You must walk the path ahead. You will never know what life has in store unless you walk the path before you.”
Latinarrific salutes Meryland Cuevas