By Chesney Hearst, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Actress, producer and diver Sofie Mentens has spent the last two years exploring the underwater worlds off the coasts of Brazil and the Caribbean as a co-host of the Brazilian channel, Canal Off’s diving show, “Submerso”.
Born to a Belgian journalist father and a Brazilian mother in Antwerp, Belgium and raised in Amsterdam, Holland the now 26-year-old Mentens always loved acting, sport, water and Rio.
“My mother is from Brazil, so I always had connections to Brazil,” said Mentens who spoke with The Rio Times while preparing to travel to Africa for the taping of the fourth season of “Submerso”.
“My family lived in Brasília. I went on a few vacations to Rio and I just fell in love with the place. I went back to Holland and when I started university I bought a big poster of Rio and I hung it over my bed. I said, ‘One day I will live there.’”
In 2011, after finishing university, where she studied Media and Entertainment Management, Mentens followed her dream.
Struggling at first to find employment in Rio, Mentens, who also studied acting at UCLA in Los Angeles, California for one year after leaving high school and later worked in Amsterdam as an actress in the country’s most popular soap opera “Goede Tijden, Slechte Tijden” (“Good Times, Bad Times”), received an invite from a Rio friend and television host to attend a network meeting.
“They asked, ‘do you have your diving papers?’ and I thought what a weird question,” said Mentens. “But I said ‘Yes I do,’ because I’ve dived since I was eleven. Then they said ‘Ok, we have a pilot for a program for you.’ Then three or four months later we were shooting the first season of the program.”
The episodes aired on Canal OFF, a Brazilian channel that according to a representative, ” is an adventure and action high definition channel, focused on nature, vibrant images, adrenaline and fearless characters, who face breathtaking experiences around the globe.”
During the first season of “Submerso,” Mentens and co-host Marcela Witt explored the waters off the coast of Brazil from Rio to Recife.
“We did thirteen places in like 23 days. It was crazy.” said Mentens “We filmed every day. We went with a little van with the whole crew. I started the show with Marcela. Then in the second season the third host, biologist Sofia [Graça Aranha] joined us.”
Mentens had learned diving with her father as the two began taking lessons together in Spain when Mentens was eleven.
“I was always very connected with water. I did seven years of synchronized swimming. I competed. I trained five times a week,” said Mentens who has also practiced Thai boxing, yoga, windsurfing, skydiving and is currently learning to surf from her boyfriend, professional surfer Marcelo Trekinho.
“My astrological sign is Pisces (represented by fish),” Mentens continued. “So, I feel very comfortable in the water and I love seeing the fish. I think it’s my favorite life other than humans. There’s an adrenaline charge that you can’t describe because it’s not our environment. It’s such a different life and that really fascinates me.”
During the second season, the three hosts traveled to Angra dos Reis, Bonito, and Santos in São Paulo and in the third season they filmed in the Caribbean where Mentens also did the production for the filming in two of the three islands they visited.
Mentens, who had lived in the Caribbean for one year previously and whose father also currently lives in Curação, said that returning there was “a little bit like going back home. We did a very special dive with my father. It was one of the nicest shows so far.”
When asked if she was excited about the trip to Africa, where they will film thirteens episodes in one month in Mozambique and Tanzania, Mentens replied, “Yes, a lot because I’ve never been to that part of the world and I have no idea what to expect.”
“One thing we will do for sure is dive with sharks,” said Mentens. “I’m very scared but I want to do it. It’s going to be a big challenge.”