Graciella was always trucking around to different embassies, trying to secure visas for her children. As the lone kid born under the stars and stripes, Anwar felt special. "I was so proud to be American," he recalls. "When Apollo 11 landed in 1969, I was watching. We had a little round TV. It was 3 o'clock in the morning Spanish time. I went back with an American flag to my school the next day."

"People look at him like he's a mythical god."

Anwar felt the pull of one American locale in particular: his hometown. Bouncing around the world, he always kept close a photo from his childhood of the family at the Fontainebleau pool.

"When you say 'Miami' around the world, it's palm trees, beaches," he says. "It's a dream around the world, a dream place to live."

Anwar landed a number of modeling gigs thanks to an ad campaign for "Mr. Love 94."
Courtesy of Anwar Zayden
Anwar landed a number of modeling gigs thanks to an ad campaign for "Mr. Love 94."
Along with his framing business, the modeling work let him pursue his unique hobbies.
Courtesy of Anwar Zayden
Along with his framing business, the modeling work let him pursue his unique hobbies.

It took only a few short years for Anwar to go from an empty-pocketed nobody to local sex bomb.

He arrived back in Miami when he was 18, staying with an aunt and uncle on his mother's side. For money, he began competing as a bull rider in rodeos between Florida and Texas. After pulling together nearly $20,000 after one season, he bunked down in Knoxville. A job materialized in a frame store; as Anwar learned the trade, he watched the shop's mistakes — late orders, botched work.

"I saw what I could do better," he says. College wasn't in his plans. "My dream was always to own my own business."

In 1979, he leased the only space he could — a crumbling $600-a-month retail slot in Brickell, before it was an overplanted plot of high-rises. Junkies lived in the building above the store. "There was not one night when I didn't go home praying they wouldn't burn the building down when I was asleep."

First, he offered 30-minute framing, quick and neat. Second: a dash of showbiz. When a customer came in to place an order, he'd listen to the request, flip up and do a handstand on the work table, then flip down and get working.

In 1984, smooth-jam radio station Love 94 ran TV commercials featuring "Mr. Love 94," a local hunk who sent ladies gaga. After a preppy, Tom Cruise carbon copy had a turn as the star, the station needed a new face.

More than 100 applicants crammed a casting office in Coconut Grove, batting bedroom eyes and shooting sexy daggers at a camera. But Barbara Diprima, the casting director, had already spotted Anwar dropping off a girlfriend at an acting class. She liked the permed-out, European-style hunk sporting shirts open to his navel.

"He just exuded sex," Diprima says. She asked him to audition.

"He was just so gorgeous, so handsome," Diprima recalls. "But there was something about him that was special. He was ingratiating and charming. You could tell he loved people."

The 25-year-old was green-lighted.

"Honestly, I don't have a problem getting laid, so I didn't need an ad campaign to do it," Anwar says today. "But it was fun."

What followed once the ads hit television was like Beatlemania — focused onto one dude.

Anwar was mobbed. Business at the store picked up so much that he could afford a Brickell Avenue apartment and a flashy Rolls-Royce convertible. TV stations began running nightly news pieces on Mr. Love 94, with incredible good looks and his own business, all while in his mid-20s. "Are you for real?" one goofball newscaster asked him.

The attention brought other work. Anwar smoldered as a Bolivian drug lord on Miami Vice, making his onscreen debut pulling up to the city's glittering skyline in a cigarette boat. Then he did a Calvin Klein campaign. He wore a loincloth.

Anwar was a free-roaming Romeo in a city at the tip of Cocaine Cowboys excess. Soon, he locked down in a relationship with supermodel (and future Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star) Yolanda Hadid Foster. "She was my first love," he says now. But after seven years, the relationship burned out.

It's hard being a beautiful dude. The fame flows at you. There's no off switch. Anwar — and his lady friends — didn't always appreciate it. "A woman loves attention. And when you take a woman out to a place and it's a hundred fucking people out there trying to get to you, you know how that makes a woman feel? Not good, bro.

"Being so famous, what did it do to me? It opened up the doors for people to set me up."

The '90s were good times. There were 21 modeling agencies crammed into 13 blocks on South Beach. Bars were flush with beautiful people. Anwar was right there, sliding his Rolls-Royce between the Ferraris and Lamborghinis parked outside Washington Avenue clubs.

Business also took off. After bringing his father and siblings into the business, Anwar opened Art Express in Kendall. The new store filled expensive orders for local celebs like Jose Canseco, Sylvester Stallone, and Sen. Connie Mack.

But in September 1997, it all blew up in the worst way. Eating dinner one night at China Grill, Anwar caught the eye of a flight attendant and sometime-model named Nancy "Coco" Johnsen. The 31-year-old ditched her date and sat down with Anwar, and the two partied that night. The next morning, Anwar rollerbladed over to meet Johnsen for breakfast at the News Cafe on Ocean Drive. The pair next ducked into the nearby apartment of a friend.

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