That’s the kind of shot that makes your thighs look ‘mondo,”‘ said Cuban-born Nely Galan, who was wearing a visibly snug Gemma Kahng suit. A cameraman was zooming in on her from the bottom of a staircase at Hollywood’s La Boheme restaurant during a taping of E!’s “The Gossip Show,” which she hosted this year. “It’s a good thing I’m wearing Donna Karan hose; they never run!” she added.
Galan, 30, cares a lot about her image these days. As principal of Tropix, a division of HBO, Galan oversees a multimedia concern that produces Latino-themed entertainment for the American market and helps the mainstream media tailor their product for Latin-American audiences. She masterminded the on-air look for the Fox Latin American Channel, helped launch one of ESPN’s Language Services and HBO En Espanol, produced the Emmy-Award winning documentary “Since JFK: The Last Twenty Years,” was granted the National Hispanic Leadership Fellowship at Harvard University’s JFK School of Government and is developing two comedy series for ABC about growing up Latina.
Galan, a workaholic with a passion for clothes, has a distinctive view of fashion. “When you’re Latin, you’re always into clothes,” she says. “You’re raised caring about clothes, about how you look. It’s your culture. But I made the mistake of not realizing that while you’re supposed to follow fashion trends, you’re also supposed to follow your body type. If you really want to wear ruffles, for example, and you’re five-foot-four with short legs, you’re going to look like a cow in your ruffles. “So I just figured out how to wear things for a small person that are colorful and lively, yet tailored and monochromatic. I’m finally comfortable with my look; I call it Classic Flamboyant.”
The producer’s closet is full of suits, and she mentions three favorites: a black day-into-evening suit by Kahng, a lemon yellow Thierry Mugler she calls her “Barbie Doll” suit and a classic pinstripe from Philippe Adec.
“With the work I do, it’s very important that I make a statement.” she notes. “You want your clothes to say something about how you think, how you run your business, who you are. It’s a very American thing to look like what you do: Nurses dress like nurses, lawyers like lawyers, bankers like bankers, doctors like doctors. My culture never judges a book by its cover, so I have to find a happy medium between American conformity and Latin individuality.” Galan thinks mainstream Americans could learn a thing or two from Latinos about finding their own styles. “American women in business worry too much about how they look rather than how they come across. It’s very Anglo to think that conformity goes hand in hand with power. The whole mannish Armani look is the antithesis of what I think I should look like. To me, it’s like trying really hard to not look good.” Not surprisingly, Galan also has strong views about the current crop of actors and actresses. “Rosie Perez has taken the street look to the max,” says Galan. “She’s a teeny person like me, so she wears simple, monochromatic clothes with hip-hop accents like big earrings or wild curly hair. It’s never overdone.”
Sonia Braga, Galan says, wouldn’t be herself without “that hair.” The same goes for Whoopi Goldberg.
“Whoopi makes a very interesting impression,” Galan continues. “She looks best in her dreadlocks and a man’s jacket; the tuxedo look. It’s a great way to combine her ethnicity with a certain style. And Janet Jackson has just found her look, like me. She can wear tight outfits and flamboyant things, because it works with her body type.”
Andy Garcia gets high marks for his “Havana” style, according to Galan. His T-shirts, jackets and sandals are all “ethnic without being self-conscious.”
Madonna, on the other hand, has slipped in the producer’s style rankings. “I recently lost it for her,” Galan says. “She’s in a place that’s not so great right now, stylistically. She looked her best in an old magazine spread, prior to her ‘Sex’ book, where she looked clean and simple as a blonde in lots of white clothing. I think the problem is that she should get rid of that brown hair. It looks dirty. It just doesn’t work for her.” Galan, who’s been nicknamed the “Cuban Missile,” is never at a loss for words. As a cameraman studies the way the light from a chandelier reflects off her hair for a very long moment, she calls, “Hello! This is not brain surgery!” Then it’s back to the business of video-taping: “Calle por favor…Quiet!”