While she breastfeeds her son Milan, May Reguera closes her eyes and remembers the smell of fresh fruit and rain-soaked earth. At birth, she was baptized Maydely, but that name is no longer familiar to her. She is May, Milan’s mother, an infinitely creative woman. That’s the only label she admits.
An actress by profession, a photographer by perseverance and an entrepreneur by intuition, this young Cuban found on social networks the niche that was so often denied her in institutional spaces to show her work on the island. Thus, she went from collaborating with fashion magazines and working as a model to directing audiovisual productions, promotional campaigns and running her Photography Studio (@myreguerastudio), that sort of oasis where she achieves her dreams and battles her nightmares while guaranteeing household financial support. “It’s fortunate to make a living doing what you love to do,” she says.
“My greatest creative processes have resulted because of censorship, it is part of me…”May Requera
One day she poses with a fish in her hand, the next she dyes her hair red and covers her body with flowers or undresses in the rain. Sometimes she talks about Cruces, her hometown, one of many small places in Cuba where life goes by with no expectations or as we say: sin penas ni glorias; others, she is cathartic because Instagram censored one of her female nude photographs yet again. Lately, she comments on what it means to be a Cuban mother in the midst of an economic inflation only comparable to the Special Period of the ‘90s.
“There will always be energies working in your favor or against you, whether on social media or in everyday life,” she answers when asked if she is afraid to show her true self online, where most people create an alter ego. “Everyone’s reality and way of presenting themselves is different. I am not afraid to share who I am and how I feel. If I were an introvert, that would maybe work against me in this line of work. Sincerity will always be the path to connect with my followers, but of course, I’ve made mistakes along the way.”
Loyal to her truth, she often overcomes censorship. “My greatest creative processes have resulted because of censorship, it is part of me. Luckily, I’ve been able to use those setbacks to propel me forward. I’m not saying it is a good thing. I’d rather live in a world free of censorship. I’ve also faced criticism but, according to Aristotle, there is only one way to avoid it: do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. I always take it upon myself to find what is constructive and let go of what is not.”
May’s art work has been published by Vogue Italia. “It is a goal that we can all achieve,” she insists modestly. “The platform is only a subjective qualifier of the work. And I say subjective because I know of great shots from other photographers that don’t make it through the editorial process.”
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What do you think sets your photography apart from other’s work?
“I think it’s not up to me to determine that. I’d say that what distinguishes the art is the creator behind it. Each of us is unique with particular characteristics and visions. I believe that if everyone works with authenticity, that will differentiate their work.”
May is afraid of inertia, of getting stuck. A contemplative existence is not an option for her. “I like to improvise in the middle of a photo shoot, especially when it’s for myself. If I am working with clients, I have to respect their expectations. However, if by any chance some extravagant ideas come to mind, I ask permission and give them a try. Spontaneity proposes extraordinary things, it’s the magic of the moment!”
May Reguera has an angel inside her.
Gifted with such versatility, this young artist projects a powerful and strong vibe in several of her self-portraits. Juxtaposed to this dynamic image is her delicate and tender tone of voice. She says that she can be sarcastic and hurtful, nonetheless, when you hear her melodious accent it’s hard to believe it belongs to her; but you end up confirming what you suspected all along: May Reguera has an angel inside her.
“I have been born many times,” she says. I was reborn when I became a mother. Milan is my greatest act of love. You asked me what remains of the girl from Cruces who one day threw herself into the adventure of being an artist and moved to Havana. The answer is everything and nothing. There is something about that girl that I always carry with me as an apprenticeship. Every path she walked brought me closer to who I am and further away from what I didn’t want in my life. Every moment along the way makes you grow somewhat.”
What does Cuba mean to you?
“My roots, my religion, my habits and traditions. I believe that the place where you are born and grow up builds you as a person, your character and your spirit.”
The midday torpor falls on her house in Vedado. May just finished nursing Milan, who is now peacefully sleeping. For some strange reason, the smell of fresh fruit and rain-soaked earth still lingers in her memory. “This is a sign,” she says. May Reguera takes out her camera to continue in search of her dreamed photograph, yet to come.