When I’m With Her: Cynthia & Maria
Coming out as a drag queen in a religious family was challenging for Cynthia Lee Fontaine and her mother Maria Hernandez. Through teamwork and unconditional love, the two have weathered all storms they’ve encountered and come out stronger on the other side.
TAKE US BACK TO WHEN YOU TWO FIRST MET.
“I’ve been a mother for 38 years and was only 20 when I had Carlos [Cynthia’s real name]. He’s my firstborn and I wasn’t married but ended up marrying, and later divorcing, his father. I had always envisioned myself becoming a mother and even though it was challenging having a baby at such young age and dropping out of college because of the pregnancy, it was a wonderful experience to see him for the first time.”
HOW WAS IT TO FIND OUT YOUR SON WANTED TO DO DRAG?
“It was shocking and something I had never expected would happen. I found out by seeing a photo of him dressed as Cynthia Lee Fontaine, and confronted him about it — asking why I had to find out like that instead of him telling me to my face.”
“I went to see a psychologist who helped me understand that he’s my son who I love no matter what, and that he’s an excellent son with a huge heart. I started seeing the situation in a different light and went to see him perform at a drag show. Once I did, I discovered that they were a family, that they treated each other with so much kindness and compassion. They welcomed me like a member of their family too, and that made me realize that what Carlos was doing as Cynthia Lee Fontaine was important to others. That he was helping the LGBT+ community.”
“I’ve always supported him and he has always made me proud, always. A good student, a good son, a good brother. He’s an excellent person.”
DEFINE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THREE WORDS.
“Intimate, loving and teamwork.”
TELL US A DETAIL ABOUT YOUR MOM YOU SECRETLY LOVE.
“We have the same mole. It’s exactly the same and in exactly the same place. I feel a special connection with her because of that. Most of all, though, I love her personality. She’s a strong woman, she’s enthusiastic, and has a positive and progressive look on life.”
“She’s given me confidence and made sure I always fight for my dreams and my future. She’s made me realize how powerful I am, and not to contain that for myself but share it with others. She’s 100 percent proud of me, and that’s my life’s biggest achievement.”
I’ve always supported him and he has always made me proud, always.
WHEN DOES YOUR SON DRIVE YOU CRAZY?
“When you go to Carlos’ apartment everything is very clean, and when he comes over to my house he immediately starts cleaning and organizing and refuses to let me do anything. That drives me crazy!”
TELL US A MEMORY ABOUT YOUR MOM YOU KEEP CLOSE TO YOUR HEART.
“The first time my mother saw me singing live. I was 15 years old and performed in front of an audience in Puerto Rico, and I saw her eyes shining at me from across the room. I could see how proud she was. Seeing me sing encouraged her to start doing it herself. Without knowing it, I was giving her the inspiration to join a choir and pursue something she loves.”
Want more Mother’s Day inspiration? Read four more stories here!
PHOTOGRAPHER Jacqueline Harriet
STYLING Liz McClean | Walter Schupfer Management
MAKEUP Linda Gradin | L’Atelier NYC
HAIR Sabrina Szinay | The Wall Group