“My mom and I are very close, literally as well as figuratively: She lives with me, and that’s awesome,” Hilton (the alter-ego gossipmonger name used by Mario Lavandeira), tells Yahoo Beauty. “She has her own space — there’s a little guesthouse that she and her boyfriend live in. Her home is always open, mine is always open, we’re always going back and forth. It’s really special.”
So it’s no wonder that Hilton’s 668,000 Instagram followers get regularly treated to videos featuring Teresita Lavandeira, aka “#MommaPerez,” doing all sorts of endearing things: eating (favorites include Chifles plantain chips, Cuban chicken soup with lots of lemon, and green beans straight out of a can); showing off her rather extensive pajama collection; accompanying her son to various events and backstage meet-and-greets; and doting on her grandchildren, Mario, 4, and Mia, 2.
In most of the footage he posts of his mom, Hilton is laughing and lovingly poking fun as he asks his mother questions — usually along the lines of “Why are you doing that?” — and Momma Perez remains unfazed. It’s an adorable dynamic and one that earns consistent praise from his fans.
“So sweet to see the way you treat her like a queen. One of the many reasons I just love you!” wrote one, while another suggested: “You two need your own reality show! Perez Family Values!” And the loving comments directed at his mom come nonstop, with folks declaring, “I’m so in love with your mama, she’s the cutest/sweetest person ever!” and “I could watch this woman all day,” and “I would watch and listen to her read the phone book…No wonder she’s your best friend!”
Mom Lavandeira loves it, of course. “I am very happy when my son tells me people respond positively when they see me and hear me on Instagram,” she tells Yahoo Beauty in Spanish. “I’m pleased to have admirers. I respect them, and I send them all my love.”
Hilton, whose father died in the mid-1990s, is grateful to have his mother be such a part of his children’s lives and says it feels wonderfully familiar. “It reminds me of the way I grew up,” he says, noting that his grandparents lived with the family when he was growing up in Miami. “It was everything. It was what informed me as to what I think life is all about.”
The same can be said for the unfailing love from his mom, whose parental support did not waver as she got used to the idea of Hilton being gay. “She’s always been cool with it, but I don’t think she was familiar with it,” he explains. “I don’t think she understood it, and I think that she just had a lot of fear in the beginning [because of AIDS]. … I went to this all-boys’ Jesuit school. I grew up in Cuba basically, as Miami is predominantly Latino … and it’s a society that, back then at least, wasn’t very accepting of gay people. As time went on, she realized that it’s not the most awful hardship … that I could still function in society and have a happy life. And now that she’s aware that I’m a totally bomb son!”
Hilton adds: “I love my mom. That’s a given.” He’s also amused by her “hoarding” of pajamas and her habit of eating basically everything, even salad, with a spoon. “I’m often in a state of bewilderment around her,” he says. “She’s definitely a special character and a bright light that shines all the time, and I’m lovingly letting her be. … She’s a ham.”
The relationship between Momma Perez and her grandchildren has been particularly special to watch, he says. “I know it’s brought her a lot more joy, and that’s a great thing,” he says. “In a lot of ways, my mom is still stuck in the past and chose to not 100 percent live after my dad died. A huge part of her died … so having grandchildren just gave her added purpose, and everybody needs purpose in life.”
On Mother’s Day, Hilton says, they’ll likely all go out to eat together, just like so many other families will. But, he adds, “Mother’s Day isn’t just about my mom or me, it’s about the family, so I want to make sure to celebrate that. It’s an opportunity to remind my kids that their family is different, and different is awesome. I tell them not every family has their grandmother live with them, not every family has a dad that’s both dad and mom. … It’s an opportunity for education and celebration — of me, my mom, and of the family.”
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