Waking up to see my face on the cover of Brazilian Vogue was such a thrill, but I had little time to let it sink in before my publicist called me with yet another surprise.
“Mishel, prepare yourself! You have been invited to appear on TV Globo’s programme, Encontro, which is one of the most-watched entertainment programmes around Brazil! The producer will call you today for a pre-interview, so make sure you’ve got your story ready!
Also, do you have a pen? Grab one now and note these things down for tomorrow:
- 7am Pick up for Globo TV filming
- 11am phone interview with SHE magazine
- 12pm call with WHO magazine
- 3pm photoshoot with JORNAL EXTRA at the Sambadrome
- 5pm interview with Radio Roquette, (the most listened to station in Rio)
I told you it’d be a wild ride!”
For a moment, I couldn’t breathe. This was everything I had dreamed of but suddenly the old feelings of fear and insecurity took over me once again.
It’s not too late to back out. I don’t need to put myself through all this stress. After all, being a Muse is supposed to be enjoyable, right? I can just tell my publicist that I’m unwell, and that she can send in a written press release telling my story. I was about to pick up the phone to tell her I when heard the familiar voices in my head.
The angel on my left shoulder firmly advised me:
“Darling, amongst all of the hype, noise and thousands of performers at Rio Carnival, and after performing 7 times in the parade, you are finally getting the opportunity to share your story with the world! You deserve this and you will be magnificent! Don’t be afraid – just be yourself.”
The devil on my right shoulder thought otherwise:
“What if you forget how to speak Portuguese on live radio? What if you trip over whilst dancing and fall on your face, or they ask you a question you don’t understand or can’t explain and you end up looking like a total fool on national Brazilian TV? Run! All of those things could really happen, and imagine if you were to ruin all of your hard work and sacrifice! Just count your blessings and realise this is the most you can achieve and it’s time to move on!”
Have you ever heard the expression ‘Analysis Paralysis’? It means that you analyse something to within an inch of your life, and therefore are paralysed with fear about all of the possible outcomes, and it means that you end up not making a decision at all.
So there I was, on the floor of my apartment in Rio and paralysed with fear. After 16 years committed to this career, was I about to throw in the gauntlet and destroy my life’s work?
My devil was right – there were so many things that could go wrong, and as the saying goes, “Reputation takes a lifetime to build and an instant to destroy”.
Was I willing to put myself on the line yet again, just for a fleeting ‘15 minutes of fame’?
I thought long and hard about my story. About my passion for Samba, which seemed to come into my life serendipitously. I never grew up listening to Brazilian music or had contact with the culture, but somehow it had found its way into my life and had inspired me to transition from a corporate day job teaching English to starting my own business teaching dance, all the while helping me to transform from a shy young girl into a confident woman.
I thought about how Brazilian culture had influenced how I expressed my personality – from the way I now adorned myself with vibrant colours and accessories, how I loved to listen to Samba and Bossa Nova beats on a daily basis to lift my mood, how I now understood and was able to communicate in Portuguese and therefore have deeper connections with people from another culture which was so rich in history and so very different from my own, and overall how Samba had made me feel more confident about my femininity, sensuality and my body image.
Yes, I had to do this. I had to tell my story to hopefully inspire others to live their lives with passion, follow their dreams and trust in themselves.
I called my publicist, took a deep breath and said “Vamos nessa!” (Let’s do this is!)
The next morning I did my very first phone interview in Portuguese with SHE Magazine, and the journalist’s opening question was “How has Brazil changed your life?”
“O Brasil me trouxe alegria e razao para viver. Quando o samba toca, os problemas sao esquecidos.”
Brazil has brought me happiness and purpose to my life. When I hear Samba, my problems fade away…”
….except that when I dance Samba, I’m also confronted with problems, like what happened when I appeared on Brazilian national TV for Globo network’s “Encontro” programme.
My publicist had sent through my story to the producer in advance, who was thrilled to have a fresh face and different angle to present as part of the show’s Carnival series.
Every day in the lead up to Rio Carnival, the programme features a Samba school’s bateria (drum squad) who present their enredo (theme song) for the year, and their Rainha da Bateria (Queen of the Drums).
Usually Muses don’t appear on the programme as there is only enough time to chat with the Queen and the singers, however as my story was ‘international’, I could speak Portuguese, and I was invited to be a Muse by one of Carnival’s icons, Quiteria Chagas, they jumped at the idea of having me join her on the show.
The whole experience was very rockstar-like! I was picked up in a private car, then put on a golf buggy and driven through the epic headquarters of the mighty Globo studios, located on hectares of lush rainforest and land to the south of Rio, where they film all of their famous novelas (soap operas).
I was then given my own private dressing room with a professional hair and make up artist (I was instructed to arrive with a ‘blank’ face as TV make up is much heavier than normal) and a wardrobe assistant to help me get into costume (although I’ve done that a million times on my own!). Once I was ready, the producer came in to greet and prep me, and then led me through to the studio set where the Imperio Serrano bateria was warming up and my lovely Queen Quiteria was scoping out the space and testing the floor surface with her heels.
“Querida! Quanto tempo! Voce esta lindissima!” (Darling, it’s been too long! You look stunning!)
I hadn’t seen Quiteria since we first met in Europe in November, and the poor thing had just arrived after a long overnight flight from Milan and come straight from the airport to the studio.
“You must be exhausted!”
“I am, but I wouldn’t miss this opportunity for the world! Now let’s go out there and represent my beloved school with our beleza (beauty), charme and paixao pelo samba (passion for samba)!”
And we did just that!
The presenters introduced me as the first Aussie Muse in the history of Carnival’s top division, and asked about how I’d come to be a Sambista. Quiteria then talked about my work abroad promoting the Brazilian culture, developing a curriculum to teach Samba to foreigners and bringing them to parade in Rio Carnival.
We then danced to Imperio’s enredo over and over again until the cameramen got all the angles they needed, and then once the cameras stopped rolling, kept the party going as we were all having so much fun!
At the end, the presenters came up to me and gave me big hugs, congratulating me on my Portuguese and my dance skills. They said they’d never seen an Aussie dance Samba at that level, and they were thrilled to have had me on the show to promote the Brazilian culture in such a positive light.
As I left my dressing room, I was on such a high and couldn’t stop smiling. I had finally achieved my dream to be on Brazilian TV and share my story. I was so happy to have been invited, to have shared the experience with Quiteria, but mostly to not have stumbled with my Portuguese or fallen over and broken a leg!
As a thank you for being on the show, the studio shouted us lunch, so I headed to the Globo café to meet my publicist, where we were surrounded by famous soap actors, models and musicians as we chowed down on delicious Brazilian cuisine.
We shared a glass of champagne to celebrate our success and whilst discussing upcoming media commitments, her phone rang. As soon as she answered it, her face dropped.
I looked at her in alarm. What’s wrong?
She finished the call, took a deep breath and exhaled loudly whilst rolling her eyes.
“That was the President of Imperio. She is quite upset because she didn’t know you would be appearing on Encontro with Quiteria, and now all of the Musas are furious with her because they weren’t invited.
I told her that it was an amazing media opportunity (and one they didn’t have to pay for!) to have an international Muse representing the school on TV, and that if the others want to be on the show, they need to hire their own publicists! Don’t worry my love, they are all just jealous!”
I tried to laugh it off and stay positive but my heart sank. Not again. Yet another moment when I finally achieved something I’d been working so hard for, and other women had to cause drama about it.
I looked down at my phone and saw my Whatsapp going nuts. I had recently been added to a group called “Musas do Imperio”, where the school’s PR manager would post info about our media responsibilities, rehearsals and upcoming events. I guess everyone had forgotten I was still a part of that group as they started their rampage.
I won’t tell you what was said, but I’d like you to imagine the worst things that women can say about each other, and times it by 10 as they were said by a bunch of diva dancers whose only moments to shine are at Carnival time.
Tears started to fall down my cheeks as I read comment after comment, and finally my publicist grabbed my phone and swiftly removed me from the group.
“Don’t look at that! Carnival is less than a week away and we are right on schedule! We need you feeling on top of your game, so don’t let a bunch of insecure ******* throw you off track! You are about to make history! Plus you don’t want to ruin your beautiful make up as you are about to do your photoshoot at the Sambadrome with Rio’s most prestigious newspaper and we need you shining with happiness, not tears!”
I looked at her in utter defeat. I was so terribly tired of this industry and all the nastiness that came with it.
“Mishel? Tell me you can do this! If anyone deserves it, you do!”
I closed my eyes and sent a prayer for strength to my Brazilian Orixa Oxum, goddess of prosperity, beauty and love.
“Please protect me from negative energy and allow abundance to flow to me. Surround me with love and allow me to express and share my unique feminine power with the world.”
I wiped away the tears, put on my best ‘fake it till you make it’ face and rocked the photoshoot, like the professional I have trained myself to be.
The next morning I woke up to find myself on the cover of one of Brazil’s largest media platforms, the weekend edition of Jornal Extra news.
Obrigada Oxum! (Thank you Oxum!)