Mall Santa, all I want for Xmas is to interview Ana de Armas. That's all I need to believe in the miracle of the 1995 shopping mall Santa.
ana de armas interview vanity fair
Ana de Armas on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine.

Do you remember telling the mall Santa what you wanted for Christmas in 1995? Mom and dad would put you on his lap, pay $9.95 to a high-school student who didn’t want to be there an elf and tell you to whisper into Santa’s ear? I remember it. But, I’m Jewish so I had little faith that he’d deliver (pun intended). I’d wait and hope that the GI Joe Walkie Talkie set would somehow show up next to my fireplace anyway, to no avail.

Then, the other day I read that mall Santas are making a comeback. So, I went back to the mall to ask Santa for one thing that only he can deliver; an on camera interview with Ana de Armas. I know. Weird. But, read on and it won’t seem so creepy. It’s not a stunt; just an honest-to-goodness account of my missed opportunity and effort to make good on it… and a chance for Mall Santa to redeem himself.

“Mall Santa, if you (or Ana) are listening, all I want this Xmas is for one of my dozen or so friends who knows Ana to send this post along. I’ll hop on a plane, to anywhere she is, with camera in hand.”

About three years ago I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and noticed Ana in photos with the gang from Clandestina in Habana Vieja. Leire and Idania dedicated a few posts to her so I figured she must be important. I actually remember asking them during one of their visits to New York City, who she was. I had never heard of de Armas at that point, despite having already seen Blade Runner 2049.

My fault Ana, not yours.

As a fledgling wanna be journalist, I did some research and found out that she’s pretty righteous. She’s highly respected as a hard-working, talented artist focused on her craft. Of course, she’s beautiful too (that smile – have you seen that smile?). But I’m happily married to a beautiful, smart wonderful woman of my dreams so it’s not about that.

I just wanted to interview her.

I want to discuss her background, her Cuban identity and her connection to the island. I want to hear what being a Cuban actor means to her, her family and to Cubans around the world. I want to ask her how she takes her cafecito. And, claro, since I look like Daniel Craig, I want to know what it was like to be in a Bond film.

I want to tell her story to our Cuban-American audience. What de Armas has accomplished, and what she represents to the Cuban and Cuban-American community in Hollywood is a big deal.

I’m a super optimistic person. Yet, I’m also just a bald guy with big teeth and a camera. So, I’m not (completely) delusional…”

Speaking of big deals – I got busy and put off tracking her down. Then, Knives Out came out, she got some amazing media/sponsorship campaigns, started dating Ben Affleck (I’m personally more of a Matt Damon fan) and starred in No Time to Die. At warp speed, she became a big deal and our little startup media company, Startup Cuba, was no match for the likes of Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair and Vogue. While I was sleeping at the wheel, not interviewing her, de Armas was becoming a megastar and quickly grew out of our reach.

What Do You Want to See in Our Cuban Food Film?

See where I’m going with all this?

I fell asleep on the job and missed my chance to interview her.

I’m a super optimistic person. Yet, I’m also just a bald guy with big teeth and a camera. So, I’m not (completely) delusional – my expectations are set pretty low.

But, Mall Santa, if you (or Ana) are listening, all I want this Xmas is for one of my dozen or so friends who knows Ana to send this post along. I’ll submit to a background check, COVID test and even a haircut before hopping on a plane, to anywhere she is, with camera in hand. Then I’ll give a big hug to Mall Santa and apologize for telling my dad that I saw him smoking a cigarette in the parking lot on his break.

Ana? A friend of Ana? Send me an email?

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Ken Deckinger is the co-founder and CEO of Startup Cuba and the executive producer and host of its namesake docuseries. A native of South Florida, Ken has been an entrepreneur for his entire professional career. Previously he was co-founder and CEO of HurryDate, pioneering the global concept of speed dating to 45 cities throughout the US, UK and Canada. HurryDate eventually evolved into online dating and was acquired by Spark Networks, the parent company of and Ken is a graduate of Boston College and the University of Florida, where he was honored with the University’s Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Under 40 award and sits on the Board for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. He actively advises entrepreneurs and is a two-time protagonist of a Harvard Business School case study. Ken’s filmmaking and journalistic journey is inspired by a love of travel and authentic connections with other cultures. He believes that the more we know about each other, through stories, the closer we can become — thus the mission of Startup Cuba: to amplify the voices of the people sharing stories in the Latinx space. After living in New York City for 15 years, he encouraged his wife to move their family to Miami to get back to his South Florida roots. Needless to say, it was a short discussion and he and his family now call Boston, where his wife grew up, their home.

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