From Brazil

with Vincent Bevins and guests

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Vincent Bevins é colaborador do jornal britânico 'Financial Times' e correspondente no Brasil do 'Los Angeles Times'. Escrito em inglês, blog aborda principais acontecimentos do Brasil sob o olhar de um estrangeiro.

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On beauty in Brazil’s old-school celebrity culture

Por frombrazil

By Dom Phillips, in Rio de Janeiro

“Happiness and beauty are incompatible. And if a beautiful woman is happy, we would be certain of a visual mistake – she’s not beautiful,” the great Brazilian writer Nelson Rodrigues once said.

Not in Brazil’s celebrity world. Here, to be successful, an actress and/or model and/or television presenter (and it’s usually all three) needs to be both beautiful and happy.

Oh, and a good person. Smiling relentlessly while exuding sweetness, light, and the all-important simpatía – sympathy or niceness – while playing out a public role as a nation’s sweetheart. Nasty celebrities usually don’t get on in Brazil – at least, not if they’re public about being catty.

No female star is going anywhere without a contract from the dominant Globo media network, which exerts such control over television, internet and celebrity media that Brazil’s celebrity world resembles more the airbrushed Hollywood star system of the 1950s than the whirlwind scandal machine that is the celebrity culture of the UK or US.

So Brazil gets a lot of what used to be called ‘cheesecake’ – beauty, traditional glamour, a quaintly innocent, perky sexuality – and precious few Paris Hilton trashy sex tapes or Lindsay Lohan lifestyle car crashes. Keep it positive, keep it light. Keep hold of that Globo contract. Get yourself a nice advertising deal.

Many of the country’s biggest female stars are mistresses of this dark art. One is Juliana Paes, an actress, model and sometime carnival queen, usually pictured on magazine covers looking luxuriously beautiful and improbably happy, smiling as if her life depended on it. Another is Grazi Massafera, one of the few former contestants from the Big Brother reality television show to have made the transition to a successful career as an actress and/or model.

Both Paes and Massafera recently celebrated very happy pregnancies. Both have previously stripped for Playboy without losing their wholesome appeal – nor hurting their numerous lucrative advertising contracts. Both are probably genuinely really nice.

A Globo insider once confided to me that Juliana Paes in real life is cool, friendly, vivacious, laid back, and good fun. A graçinha, as Brazilians would say. Much like many Brazilian women – this, together with their beauty, fondness for drama, and occasional tendency to engage in flights of imaginative jealous fancy, perhaps explains their internationally famous siren call.

The exception to this bombardment of pleasantry is Luana Piovani, the blonde who starred as Selton Mello’s ‘Invisible Woman’ in both the film and television series of the same name. This largely involved stripping to her smalls to drive him mad in a series of slapstick scenes while his wife, who couldn’t see her, wondered what the hell was going on. It is to the credit of scriptwriters that they managed to string this joke out for so long. Or to Luana Piovani’s sex appeal.

Piovani, unlike other Brazilian female celebs, is entertainingly willing to pick spats with other famous women – most recently using her twitter to deliver a withering attack on women who turned up at a recent celebrity fashion event showing what she regarded as too much silicon-enhanced cleavage. “The ‘ball-breast’ friends have to be advised that silicon resolves many things, but its use is prohibited on plunging necklines. It becomes like two suspended tennis balls,” Piovani pronounced.

She also took aim at Massafera, and on being congratulated by a twitter follower on taking over a soap opera role which Grazi had also been linked with, responded tartly: “It’s not enough to be beautiful, love. You have to be an actress.” Ouch.

Piovani loves her twitter, which she used to regularly update progress of the son she just had with professional surfer Pedro Scooby, eleven years her junior. He plays his part and appears in photos with his more-famous girlfriend sporting the incredulous, gaping smile of a guy who can’t believe his dumb luck in pulling someone regarded as one of the most desirable women in Brazil.

But Piovani needs to watch her twitter addiction and not bland out. Not so long ago, she published a photo of herself on twitter eating a mango, thus garnering the surreal celebrity headline: “Luana Piovani eats mango and posts photo on twitter”.

Like many of the inexplicable daily events in the chaotic, colourful, and seductive culture of Brazil, the fact that Luana shoving a mango in her gob is news made absolutely no sense at all. But hey, at least she’s happy. And if Brazil’s mango producers ever need a ‘propaganda girl’, as they’re called, well, they know who to call.

Photo: Juliana Paes

Dom Phillips is a British journalist and writes for The Times of London, Bloomberg World View, The Daily Beast, People Magazine, and British Soccer magazine 442. He has been in Brazil since 2007 and now writes From Rio for the From Brazil Blog. He is the author of Superstar DJs Here We Go (Ebury/Random House 2009).

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