The Expat: Daniel Negron Stapel

Born: Venezuela
Lives: Palermo Hollywood
Education: Currently studying landscape and interior design at Escuela Argentina de Diseño
Profession: Art director
Book: Cuentos de amor, de locura y de muerte
Film: Relatos salvajes
Gadget: my mobile phone

After seeing further decline in his native Venezuela after several years in Europe working as a model, Daniel Negron Stapel headed to Argentina with the intention of studying cinematic art direction. Five years on, he’s been married for two, something he says never thought would happen, and is now studying for a second degree.

Daniel says: “The first time I came to Argentina was on holiday with some friends 12 years ago, when I was 17. I didn’t have many expectations at that point. I came and everything was very nice but as I was quite young, I didn’t do much – we hung around Microcentro quite a lot. It’s not like I fell in love with the city.

“Lots of things then happened in my life: I moved to Boston then Europe where I lived for almost six years and I worked as a model for the most part. I also studied to be an art director and undertook various courses in order to enrich that aspect until I moved back to Venezuela. The truth is that by that point my country was in a worse situation than it had been when I left but it trapped me once again – the beach, my friends – until I reached a point and thought ‘enough’.

“One of my best friends, whose mum is Argentine, fled Venezuela for Argentina and she told me, ‘Dani, you have no idea how incredible it is here.’ I then headed to Barcelona to study there, and had a conversation with one of my professors about what she thought about my studying cinematic art direction in Buenos Aires. And she told me that it was the best thing I could do, because of the cost-quality ratio and in terms of high-profile advertising campaigns; she said ‘you’ll tip your hat to it’. And so I came here for a week and ended up staying for two and a half months.”

That was five years ago and it was at that point that Daniel’s romance with Buenos Aires began, he says. “I couldn’t leave! I fell in love with the city, the parties, the people, the fact it was so cosmopolitan. I often get asked by Argentines the typical question, ‘why do you like it so much here?’ and sometimes I don’t understand why they don’t realise why.

“When I lived in Paris everyone talked about Argentina and the good vibes it presented, the mix of people. So I had already heard from various sources that Argentina was the place to be. I was so surprised by everything. So I went back to Venezuela to sort some things out then moved here – that was almost five years ago.

Cooking the books
“In the early days I lived in Palermo Chico while I started looking for schools. I started studying at the Argentine Cinema Association, and one of my teachers, Santiago Elder, was quite mature and had a different approach from my ‘coolhunter’ one. I already had a lot of concepts in my mind from a previous job in a commercials graphic department in Venezuela, so to be told something different by someone was hard to understand. But it ended up being a marvellous experience and I found a deep love for what I was doing thanks to Santiago.

“I combined studying with going out, parties, going out for dinner and meeting lots of people, basically seeing how things worked here – and I started modelling again. I went to a few cocktail events while I was feeling my way around the city: opportunity knocked so I thought ‘why not’. I imagined it would be a lot harder to get into modelling here but I met some key people who opened doors for me, and that meant it wasn’t very hard to connect. All I needed was a little push from them, then I was off and running. One campaign I did, for example, was for Axe deodorant which ran across the whole of Latin America. I don’t model much now but if a friend asks me to and they are a very good friend, then I’ll do it!”

After completing his first degree, Daniel is now pursuing a second one in landscape and interior design, an interest that has developed since marrying his architect husband almost two years ago. “As I’m an art director, it seemed logical to start working on interior design and because of Carlos, I started to understand the technical side. I liked it so much and felt so comfortable with it, I’m now studying again and just finishing the first year. Argentina has been responsible for a lot of changes in my life! There’s a lot more stability now.

“That said, if you want parties there’s lots of parties, if you prefer a quieter life you can have that too – there are so many currents in Buenos Aires and as I’ve been nourished by so many aspects, I’m satisfied with my life.”

Mr. and Mr.
One aspect of Daniel’s life that he never expected to unravel was getting married. He says: “Impossible! Plus I’ve always been a wanderer. It never even figured on my agenda because it doesn’t exist as an option (in Venezuela). But we’re about to celebrate two years together. We met at a party just after I’d arrived, which is funny because neither of us really go out on the gay scene much. It was my second week here, so when destiny presents these things to you, it’s because it’s meant to happen. And a lovely story began to develop.”

Daniel’s friends encompass diverse nationalities, a cosmopolitan aspect to his life that he enjoys. “When I came here, I decided not to join either the Venezuelan or Argentine ghettos. My group of friends consists of lots of people from different places, and that’s perfect. I feel like I have a family, a talented and productive group that’s really diverse, and that diversity is amazing.

“These days it’s impossible to go anywhere without meeting a Venezuelan– we’re everywhere! That’s thanks to the complicated situation we’re going through there and a lot of people have migrated. My parents are still there and although my siblings have all studied abroad, strangely enough they are all living in Venezuela right now.”

Having lived in Palermo Chico as well as Puerto Madero, Daniel and his husband now live in Palermo Hollywood. “We moved here a short time ago. But it was hard to get Carlos to move as he lived in Puerto Madero for 11 years! All my friends are concentrated in Palermo, plus our office is two blocks away – the advantage of getting up and being at work in five minutes is priceless. I like being in a part of the neighbourhood that isn’t overpopulated with restaurants but I only have to walk three blocks to get to them. I love it, its energy, people cycling, there’s always a market or something new to discover – Palermo always has something to say. I’m like a fish in water in Palermo.”

Although he left his homeland over a decade ago, there is one thing that Daniel misses besides his family and friends. “The beach. The energy it transmits. Although there are lots of tourist places, you don’t have to drive far to find a paradise untouched by man. White sand, turquoise waters, 365 days of sun. I miss not having those natural spaces to visit so I can disconnect.”

Buenos Aires Herald, September 4, 2014
Ph: Via DNS

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