Legendary Cuban Beauty Icon Mirta de Perales Passes Away

Mirta de Perales, an icon in the beauty industry, particularly for us Latinas, passed away last week on May 3, 2011. One of the first Hispanic women to find huge success in the beauty industry in the U.S., de Perales was 88 years old when she died from Alzheimer's disease.

The Cuban mogul was successful early on in her native Cuba, but moved to the United States after the revolution with her children and little more than $5 in her pocket. Eventually, she returned to what she knew here in America, and founded Mirts de Perales Inc.

“She was a millionaire in Cuba and she multiplied her fortune here,” said Maribel Sotolongo, the firm’s account executive who was authorized to speak with the Miami Herald by De Perales’ children. “Mirta was, at the same time, tough and sweet. She knew every detail of the company and demanded from her staff to always look their best. She was a very good person, to the point of giving many of her employees the down payment they needed to buy a house, and she helped those newly arrived from Cuba to buy their first car. She always said she had to give back all that God had given her."

President Ronald Reagan recognized de Perales's legacy at a ceremony in the White House years ago, telling the beauty queen: “You are the American Dream."

Mirta de Perales (aka Mirta Raya) is survived by her children, a daughter, Mirta C. Perales, 57 and a son, Rev. Jorge Perales, 59 as well as various grandchildren.