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By Tricia Chaves, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – One of the highlights and often most widely displayed images of the Brazilian Carnival is the elaborately albeit scantily dressed sambistas. Leading the pack is often one or two ladies called the Rainha (queen) and Madrinha de Bateria (Godmother of the Drums).

Luma de Oliveira, photo courtesy by Kiwipat/Flickr Creative Commons License.
Luma de Oliveira, photo by Kiwipat/Flickr Creative Commons License.

This role originated with samba school Mocidade Independente in the 1970s when Adele Fátima lead their group into the Sambodrome. The Madrinha is typically a longtime or accomplished member of the samba school, and the Rainha is often a celebrity invited to participate by the school.

In many cases, schools elect to have just one as jealousy can be a factor when two starlets feel competition for the spotlight. Such is the case with the school of União da Ilha where G1 reported cat-fighting in January between lifetime Ilha do Governador resident Bruna Bruno, who will return for her seventh year to dance alongside actress Luciana Picorelli, a star of GLOBO’s version of Saturday Night Live called Zorra Total.

When interviewed about the scuffle, Bruna said that unity, not gossip or intrigue is most important. She went onto say the two could share the crowd’s attention simply because, “Two bodies do not occupy the same place in the same space.” More tranquil is the pairing of the samba school Padre Miguel where dancer and actress Thatiana Pagung will reprise her role dancing alongside the Madrinha da Bateria, 72-year old famed samba singer Elza Soares.

Juliana Portela, lead singer of the Brazilian funk band Jaula das Gostosudas will replace sweetheart of Carnival, Luma de Oliveira, who danced in last year’s parade for the Portela samba school (her 16th Carnival) at the age of 44. Another funkeira, Valesca Santos (who’s better known by her nickname Popozuda, which means “big butt”) will represent Porto da Pedra.

Luíza Brunet, photo by Sdrtirs/Flickr Creative Commons License Agreement.
Luíza Brunet, photo by Sdrtirs/Flickr Creative Commons License Agreement.

Rio’s Carnival Rainhas prove you can samba with the best of them at any stage in life. Representing Unidos da Tijuca is Adriane Galisteu who is pregnant with her first child, due in July.

Of course this year’s Carnival will have no shortage of former models turned actress: Paola Oliveira will be Rainha of the Grande Rio school for the second year.

Gracyanne Barbosa will dance in her fourth Carnival with Vila Isabel after a year with Salgueiro followed by two with Mangueira.

Barbosa rival Renata Santos, who bragged in an interview that her body is “more feminine” than Barbosa’s will lead for Verde Rosa. Viviane Araújo who shot to stardom during her 10-year marriage to pagode singer Belo will dance as Salgueiro’s Rainha.

Beija Flor de Nilópolis who never falters on the longtime tradition of selecting a neighborhood girl to represent the school, chose local Raíssa Oliveira as Rainha for the eighth year.

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Tricia Chaves lives in Rio de Janeiro and writes a blog called Move to Brazil with information in English about traveling, living and investing in Brazil, and writes Post Cards from Brasil about her daily life in Rio.

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