"the queen of the tiny tots," is celebrating her 40th
birthday. Brazilian magazines are marking the event as though
it were a milestone in Brazilian history. In five or 10 years will she
still be wearing knee-length boots, mini skirts and bobbing around
in front of a group of four to five year olds?
the best-known female face in Brazil belongs to one Maria da Graça
Meneghelbetter known as Xuxa. For those fortunate readers who
have never heard of her, she is a television presenter whose lack of
artistic talent is offset by a genius for marketing herself. Barely
a week passes without her face appearing on the cover of the innumerable
gossip magazines which chronicle the lives and loves of Brazil’s "celebrities".
is currently celebrating her 40th birthday and, as usual,
is sharing her private life with the whole world. "Now I Want Respect",
she declares from the cover of one of the numerous magazines marking
this event as though it were a milestone in Brazilian history. One publisher
has even produced a bulky volume full of photos of Xuxa, "a
rainha dos baixinhos" (the queen of the tiny tots) as she is
used to be said that magazine sales increased whenever Diana, the late
Princess of Wales, appeared on the cover. I am not sure if this is the
case with Xuxa, but it may explain the fascination she has for Brazil’s
magazine editors. Sometimes she features on nearly all of the main gossip,
television and women’s magazines in the same week. It is unusual for
more than two or three weeks to pass without her grinning face appearing
on a cover, generally accompanied by her young daughter, Sasha.
articles are trite and moronicXuxa at Sasha’s birthday party,
Sasha’s first day at school, Xuxa is sad because she does not have a
boyfriend, Xuxa is happy because she has a new boyfriend etc. Of course,
it is not by coincidence that the cameras are there when Xuxa appears
at a particular spot. The magazines are just playing her game and lining
up to give her free publicity.
cannot blame her in professional terms, but to make her private life
a public affair, and particularly to involve her daughter, shows an
immaturity one would not expect from a successful 40-year-old woman.
This can also be dangerous in a country like Brazil where the rich and
famous are targets for kidnappers. Of course, the real culprits are
the people who actually buy these rubbish magazines but, as someone
once said, you can never underestimate the intelligence of television
Xuxa is unlikely to change, since even the gestation and birth of her
daughter was surrounded by publicity. As far as I know the actual conception
was not filmedsince the father was an actor, who seems to have
played a purely biological role, this may be a possibilitybut
practically every other part was. The birth was given prime-time coverage
on the television news programs and, since then, every step in the child’s
young life has been chronicled faithfully by the media. I bet more Brazilians
know the name of Xuxa’s daughter than that of the finance minister.
many Brazilian women personalities, Xuxa has undergone plastic surgery
and appeared in magazines showing her new-look face and body. As far
as we know, Sasha has not been subject to the surgeon’s knife but it
is just a matter of time I suppose. Just as the male offspring of the
English aristocracy are put down for public schools like Eton at birth,
perhaps Sasha’s name is already on the waiting list of Brazil’s most
famous plastic surgeon, Ivo Pitanguy. In her younger days Xuxa also
posed nude for magazines so viewers can make their own comparisons and
choose which nose, chin, breasts etc they prefer.
first surfaced in the early 80s when, as a teenage nymphet, she presented
children’s programs on television, dancing and singing. The combination
of scanty outfits and a well-scrubbed face, bouncing ponytail and jailbait
appeal soon attracted as many fathers as kids and she proved to be extremely
popular with all ages.
made records and films, was reported to have had an affair with Pelé,
and became a star. She tried to export her appeal abroad, targeting
the US along with other Latin American countries, but with mixed results.
The entire Chilean population rose in my estimation when, a couple of
years ago, Xuxa was booed by an audience in Santiago when she appeared
on stage clutching a bewildered little Sasha.
her fame grew, so did her fortune. Last year Veja magazine estimated
she had a personal fortune of R$250 million (around U$ 80 million).
Her face wasand iseverywhere. She advertises toys, food,
clothes etc and even had her own children’s entertainment park, magazine
and Xuxa dolls. She still has a TV program, releases CDs and films which,
while panned by the critics, are extremely successful with children
and people from the lower social class.
is interesting that these people identify with Xuxa, who is fair skinned
and blue_eyed and the opposite of most people’s ideas of a Brazilian
woman. Politically correct foreign journalists have tackled her about
this but, as she correctly said, not everyone in Brazil is black or
brown and there are lots of fair-haired blue-eyed people, particularly
in the south.
has also less successfully shrugged off accusations that her shows attract
pedophiles through "eroticizing" young children by making
them act older, apply make up, dance suggestively etc. Some of this
criticism has hit the mark and her latest series is said to be providing
an educational element and less razzmatazz.
recently separated from her manager, a woman who had guided her entire
career, and people are waiting to see if she can retain the Midas touch.
She will probably continue to be a success, but may find it difficult
to remain a female Peter Pan after 40. In many ways, it is a miracle
that she has lasted so long since the public can tire of someone very
quickly and easily. Xuxa should be careful because staying in the public
eye while getting older requires a bit of planning and dignity.
five or 10 years will she still be wearing knee-length boots, mini skirts
and bobbing around in front of a group of four to five year olds? If
she continues as she is, then she could end up like two vulgar females
who have failed to age gracefully: Hebe Camargo, who is in her 70s and
rarely absent from the gossip magazines or, even worse, Derci Gonçalves,
who is over 90 and a few years back exposed her breasts on television.
of other dyed blondes have subsequently presented children’s programs
and although some, such as Angélica and Eliane, have been successful,
none has come near Xuxa. Xuxa has shown staying power and proved to
be a good businesswoman in a tough business. After two decades of prominence
it would be good if she were to change and become more mature and follow
the example of someone else with enormous popular appeal, who rose to
fame round about the same timePresident Luiz Inácio Lula
da SilvaLula. What thenPresident Xuxa?
Fitzpatrick is a Scottish journalist who first visited Brazil in
1987 and has lived in São Paulo since 1995. He writes on
politics and finance and runs his own company, Celtic Comunicações
which specializes in editorial and translation services for Brazilian
and foreign clients. You can reach him at email@example.com
John Fitzpatrick 2003
can also read John Fitzpatrick’s articles in Infobrazil,