A Day With WSVN's Belkys Nerey
by tom austin
12:30 p.m.—Bal Harbour Shops
Belkys Nerey, coanchor of WSVN-TV/Channel 7 News at 5, 6, 10, and 11 p.m., is settling into her Friday afternoon at Makoto in the Bal Harbour Shops, home to the ladies who lunch. Today, she has the look down with her Tod’s handbag and Theory cardigan sweater, and her crew is on hand: Carmen Peláez, a playwright (Rum & Coke) and filmmaker (HBO’s The Acting Lesson); Patricia Bruno Rivero, general manager of Oxygene in the Bal Harbour Shops; and Mario Vergel, who works at Bulgari and does styling for Nerey.
As the staff scurries over with an onslaught of dishes, from miso sea bass with crispy kale to frosty Kobe fried rice, Nerey reminisces about her years in the trenches of celebrity journalism at Deco Drive. She began her career in hard news and has always approached entertainment reporting with the fearlessness of a newshound. “When Gloria Estefan did Music of the Heart with Meryl Streep, I interviewed Streep during the junket and asked her to do a promo for Deco Drive; she’s a great actress, but why be intimidated?” Nerey recalls. Streep, naturally, did a great job on the promo, but there was an immediate aftershock: “A publicist came into the media room and announced, ‘There will be no more promos for anyone.’” With a chuckle at her own nerve, Nerey says, “Then, I was a little embarrassed.”
After lunch, Nerey heads upstairs to the Nanette Lepore boutique, which supplies clothes for her newscasts and personal appearances. On this particular night, she and Lynn Martinez of WSVN are celebrity emcees for Pawpurrazzi, a Humane Society of Greater Miami benefit at Jungle Island in which benefactors and their dogs will walk a fashion runway, an only-in-Miami notion.
The staff at Nanette Lepore, led by assistant manager Ethel Dominguez, know the drill. Stylist Elysze Held, of Style Out of the City, puts Dominguez through her paces while Nerey negotiates the racks, ultimately assembling an outfit that includes a black leather jacket and a navy blue skirt. “The problem here is I actually wind up buying clothes, which takes a big chunk out of my paycheck,” she laughs.
4 p.m.—WSVN-TV/Channel 7 studios
With its string of hanging red beads, Nerey’s comfortable desk-and computer-free office/dressing room resembles the lair of a fortune-teller with a high-powered day job. Along one wall is a cushioned bench (“Sometimes, during hurricanes, I wind up sleeping here,” she notes), a never f@$k with the psycho bitch refrigerator magnet, and photos of her family and friends. There’s also a Hall of Fame award from her alma mater, Hialeah High School, with a photo of Audrey Hepburn tucked into the frame. “She’s always been my icon,” says Nerey.
She walks into the makeup room and greets Louis Aguirre of Deco Drive and news cohost Craig Stevens, her “TV husband,” as she puts it. After makeup, she banters with the staff, completely at ease, then confers with her producers, going over that day’s stories. Just before the 5 p.m. newscast starts, she records an audio teaser in one seamless take—a television natural.
7:30 p.m.—Jungle Island
The foyer of the ballroom is lined with belly dancers, party staff with POOP 911 written on their polo shirts, and what seems like hundreds of overwrought dogs. (Later on, Nerey, a lover of shelter dogs, talks about this month’s Mega Match-A-Thon at Tropical Park, the Humane Society’s 12-hour-long event encouraging the public to adopt pets.) Nerey is perfectly at home in the maelstrom of Pawpurrazzi, posing for photos with a socialite who has dressed herself, her son, and her dog in matching teal ensembles complete with hair ribbons—“Belkys, get in the pictcha!” Throughout the party, Nerey is unfailingly polite, personable, and just saucy enough. “Hey, someone’s licking me. The night is improving,” she jokes, pausing for comic effect before looking down at the dog licking her ankle. It’s all a bit of showbiz, being fun for the troops. At one juncture, she’s embroiled in dueling cheek kisses and goodwill hugs with an older Cuban woman, a moment that looks like two long-lost up-from-Hialeah vets reconnecting. After the woman walks off, Nerey says with a laugh, “I’ve never met her. She only knows me from TV. But in Miami, we all play in the same sandbox.”
photography by yamila images (rotator); satesh r. (makeup, dining, dog)
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.