Style Icon: Fabian Sanchez

Dancer and Father

Written and styled by Tracy James Robinson

Photography by Chuck St. John

Admiring Fabian Sanchez’s confidence and presence, not to mention his charisma and hip action on the dance floor, it’s hard to imagine this handsome Birminghamian as a shy teenager who failed to attend his prom at Berry High School. Fabian admits that, as a result of his fears, he missed out on a lot and therefore encourages his 10-year-old son to “live life to the fullest” and “do what you love, no matter what anyone else thinks of it.” In the past 20 years, Fabian has certainly made up for any lost opportunities and then some.

Born in New York City, Fabian moved with his family to their native Columbia shortly thereafter, and there he would spend the duration of his adolescence. Growing up in the city of Cali, recognized as the country’s sports capital, Fabian developed a passion for soccer that continued through his family’s move to Birmingham when Fabian was a teenager. Upon high school graduation, college scholarships were offered, but academic focus was not Fabian’s strong suit. “My mother is all about the arts, and my father is all about education,” he says. Fabian was the first Alabamian to ever be chosen for the U.S. National Pool, but eventually went as far as he could with the sport. Today he channels his passion through his son, Ty, who, according to his dad, is going to be the next Lionel Messi. In fact, Fabian recently bought his son some Adidas golden cleats named after the 25-year-old Argentine soccer phenom.

Every weekend, Fabian can be found cheering or coaching his “papi” (a Latin term of endearment) from the sidelines. Therefore, Fabian’s closet is full of nostalgic soccer jerseys and comfortable clothing, much of it from Armani Exchange, like his favorite jersey-knit hooded vest. Only a few dressy items stud his closet, one being a classic light gray Hugo Boss suit, which he wears when judging dance competitions or making TV appearances. Not a fan of spending money on himself, Fabian much prefers shopping for his family: “They are everything to me,” he gushes.

While soccer has always been a part of his life, so has dancing, rounds of which would often follow his parents’ dinner parties. But it was not until Fabian was 20 years old and working at Ryan’s Steakhouse on Lorna Road that dancing moved to the forefront. Fabian waited on Alan King, a regional manager with Fred Astaire Dance Studios, who was so impressed with Fabian’s ebullient personality that he invited him to join the Hoover studio, a franchise Fabian and his wife Jackie would later own and operate. That introduction led to years of competitive dancing titles, including World Mambo Champion. Later would come a stint on ABC’s wildly popular show, Dancing with the Stars, on which Fabian was paired with deaf actress Marlee Matlin. “Everyone questioned how she was going to do it, not being able to hear,” Fabian says, “but she is used to ‘hearing’ via body language, and dancing is all about communicating with the body, so I instructed her with that in mind.” Matlin’s body became famously ripped as a result of the rigors of the show, and Fabian laughs that having to put on those custom-made, form-fitting Latin pants on any kind of regular basis keep his taste for sweets in check. It is arguable that the men’s Latin ballroom dancing attire is overall simpler than that for the ladies, which can not only be skimpy but can cost thousands of dollars. After DWTS, Fabian went on to be a choreographer for Season 7 of Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance.

Toward the end of September, I attended Fred Astaire’s Fall Showcase, and watching Fabian perform, it occurred to me that not just any man can achieve non-parodic sexiness in fitted pants, an unbuttoned-to-the-navel silk shirt and dance shoes with two-inch heels. But Fabian pulls it off…quite well. Muy guapo!

Does he ever make fashion mistakes? “I’m sure I do,” Fabian smiles. “My mom will sometimes let me know by saying, ‘I’m not sure you should wear that again.'” However, Fabian explains that he dresses to please himself, not anyone else. “If I feel sexy in something, I honestly don’t care what others think.” He smiles, proffering a swirl of his hand and swish of his hips, “If you have confidence, babe, well…that’s all that matters.”

Photographed at home, Fabian sits poolside before heading to soccer practice with his son. Armani Exchange t-shirt, Guess Jeans, Steve Madden loafers, Fossil watch (a post DWTS gift from Marlee Matlin)

PUMA Ferrari collection "Drift Cat" shoe, picked up by Fabian while in L.A.

A determined & confident Scorpio, Fabian selected the apropos leather scorpion bracelet during a trip to Columbia. The double strand leather bracelet was a gift from Marlee Matlin's interpreter. Armani Exchange belt.

Perfect post-show attire: Prophetik velvet blazer

Every time he dances, Fabian wears the hematite rosary beads given to him by his mother.

Red silk dance shirt, custom-made by the DWTS costume designers for his premiere performance.

Fabian can be seen on the sidelines of every one of son Ty's soccer games, donning his Prada shades and cheering enthusiastically in Spanish

One Response to “Style Icon: Fabian Sanchez”

  1. Mary Milton says:

    Congratulations Fabian on an awesome article. I am so proud to have had the privilege to dance with you the past 20 years. I hope we will dance together at least another 20 years or longer. I have loved all of our dance routines and competitions over the years. Our last Salsa was one of the best, by far.

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