Rio Chooses 7-year Old as Carnaval Queen and World Gasps in Disbelief

Júlia Lira Queen of the drum section is an important role in Rio’s Carnaval parade. It’s a task and honor usually assigned to gorgeous actresses and models who appear in skimpy and daring attire parading in the Sambadrome.

Breaking with this tradition the Escola de Samba (Samba Club) Viradouro, one of Rio de Janeiro’s main escolas, has chosen a seven-year old girl to be its queen. 

Júlia Lira is the daughter of Marcos Lira, who is the Viradouro’s president and who claims he would never expose his litle girl in an erotic way. He also says that she will easily withstand 80 minutes dancing under in the street and points out that the girl will parade in a “very childlike costume.”

Child advocacy groups, however, disagree and say Júlia should never be allowed to parade in such a capacity. The final decision will be up to a family judge.

Júlia has been actively rehearsing for the Sunday presentation and has talked to reporters and posed for pictures. The girl has already memorized the samba enredo (theme song). The news had been given little attention by the Brazilian press until the international media picked up on it and transformed the story in a cause célèbre.

“I like to dance, play with dolls and I am a fan of the Jonas Brothers,” the girl told reporters after showing how good she can dance and before introducing them to her Barbie collection. “When I grow up I want to be a singer and a dancer,” she added.

Monica Lira, mother of the little samba girl ruled out the possibility of her daughter wearing clothes that would expose her sexually. “Julia will parade in a very childlike costume. She will be dressed as a child. I will not make my daughter dress as an adult Carnaval parade dancer.”

According to the mother the teachers and classmates in Júlia’s school have been very supportive of the girl’s participation in the Carnaval parade. For Monica, the daughter is living “the best vacation of her life.”

Talking to BBC, Carlos Nicodemos, Director of the Child and Youth Defense Council suggested that by choosing little Júlia, the Escola de Samba will contribute to “increasing the treatment of children as sex objects in Brazilian society.”

Nicodemos says he is not against the participation of children in Carnaval events since “this is part of the Brazilian culture.” He opposes, however, the exposure of the child “in a role, which traditionally is charged with great sexual connotation.”

Marcos Lira is unconvinced. For him, his daughter has the right attitude of a Carnaval queen and adds: “Any man who looks at a seven-year-old girl and gets excited should go to a doctor.”

And he goes on: “I would never dress my daughter in an erotic outfit. It would be an unfortunate gesture on my part and doomed to condemnation in my family. As a father I will not allow people to look at Julia with lecherous eyes.

“We are providing the documentation asked by the justice. The judge will say the last word and she just wants to know how the parade will be. Whatever is decided we will accept, without appealing. Also because the judge who handles the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro is very serious and human. She knows that to put his daughter in the Sambadrome a father has to make sure the child will not be seen as an object of desire.”

Viradouro has already sent the child authority pictures of the costume Júlia is supposed to wear during the parade. If the judge authorizes her participation this will be the first time a child will head one of the segments (in this case the drum section) of the Carnaval parade.

For Julia her participation wouldn’t be a first since she debuted sambaing in the avenue, two years ago, when she was five and appeared among the sambistas on Marquês de Sapucaí, the Sambadrome’s avenue.

Viradouro is from the neighboring city of Niterói. Among the famous names who already wore the crown of queen of the drum section in that Escola we have actresses Luma de Oliveira and Juliana Paes.

Edson Pereira says that everything is going the way he anticipated. He is in charge of designing and manufacturing Júlia’s costume. “She’s having fun as a child,” he tells reporters.

“We know Julia doesn’t have the same sense of responsibility that a woman would have to assume the post of queen so we are treating this matter with ease. All I can say about her costume is that it will be a child outfit, transpiring purity and innocence. The drum section will be dressed in Pirates of the Caribbean’s Jack Sparrow style and Julia will also be in this context.”

The samba enredo is called “Mexico, a paradise of colors, under the sign of the Sun.” Actress Gisele Itié and Mexican singer and actress Thalia were some of the names entertained to be the queen, but negotiations didn’t pan out.

Thalia, for example, the Viradouro people say, demanded a private jet and to be paid in a bank account in Miami. She also wanted a luxury suite in the Copacabana Palace or Glória Hotel plus a ten-men private security force.

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