Just to rub even more salt into the wounds, I was not only on the cover of the Saturday morning paper that weekend, but was also the feature article in Brazilian WHO magazine the very next day.

It seemed the ‘Australiana’ was dominating Carnival media, and there were more than a few noses out of joint.

During the previous week, I had spent a solid hour chatting to the reporter from QUEM (WHO magazine), where interviews are usually capped at 15 minutes, as she was so excited to hear my story. She wanted to know more details like:

  • What inspired you to begin Samba?
  • What was your first trip to Brazil like and how did you learn to speak Portuguese?
  • How do you teach Samba to foreigners?
  • Tell me about your Australasian Samba Queen Competition!
  • Do you think you’ll ever return to live in Rio?
  • What are the main differences between Brazilian and Australian culture?
  • How do you prepare for Carnival?
  • Tell me about the first Australian Carnival happening in Sydney soon!

On and on the questions went and I was thrilled when I read the final article, which was full of images from my Instagram and Facebook accounts as well as the professional shots I had sent her, and had 10 pages of content! 10 pages!

My feature article in Brazilian WHO magazine

If you’re interested in my answers to the above questions, head to the link below (and fire up your Google translate!)

https://revistaquem.globo.com/Carnaval/noticia/2019/02/mishel-finlayson-sera-primeira-musa-australiana-do-grupo-especial-do-rio-ensino-qualquer-um-sambar-em-5-minutos.html

Despite all of the positive media, it was a bittersweet weekend. I was still upset about the drama that had unfolded due to my appearance on Encontro, and was starting to feel anxious about my next stint on TV, which unfortunately was going to be with all of the Musas from my Samba school, plus the Australian passistas who had given me a less than lukewarm welcome in the previous weeks.

What a lovely gathering this is going to be! All for the love of Samba right?

On Monday morning I woke up early to ensure I had enough time to do my hair and make up, and travel through peak hour traffic from the south zone to the Cidade de Samba.

The City of Samba is an area to the north of Rio’s Centro district (CBD) that has been designed specifically with enormous warehouses that store floats and costumes and house the administrations of the top division samba schools, so they are closer to Sapucai (the Sambadrome).

In the centre there is a big plaza that is used for shows and media appearances in the lead up to Carnival, and today RJTV (one of Rio’s TV stations) was doing a special segment on Imperio Serrano and introducing their community.

At the City of Samba ready to film for RJTV

Of course everyone was running on Brazilian time except for me, so despite being told to arrive at 10am sharp, the bateria began trickling in around 11am and the passistas by midday. I should have known after all the years I’ve been coming here, but thought for some reason that live TV would be different (silly me!)

It was an excruciatingly hot day, in the midst of a scorching summer, and we were all congregating under a hot tin roof with no breezeway.

By midday, after waiting around in costume and high heels for over 2 hours, I was fading and my make up, along with rivers of sweat, was running down my face.

Why does Carnival always have to be so disorganized? Why can’t people arrive when they are told to? Don’t people have lives and work to get back to after this?

Obviously not, as it took another hour for the Musas and Queen to finally arrive, and for the whole school to get themselves into position for filming.

I hadn’t officially met any of the other Muses, despite passing them each briefly at the street rehearsals, because we were all in different sections of the parade.

Even though I was standing directly at the entrance, as each one arrived, they strutted right past me with their noses in the air and without the slightest sign of acknowledgment, except for one lovely Muse from the Serrinha (the slum where Imperio was founded), who came up and surprised me with a big hug.

With Imperio’s only Muse from the community

Amor, stay close to me today ok? I know all about the gossip that has been flying around about you, but I am the only Muse who has grown up within the Imperio community and we are very honoured to have an international dancer represent our school and promote our culture abroad. As for the rest of the Muses, they are only here for the fame and exposure, so don’t pay any attention to them at all!

I hadn’t realised that up until then I had been holding my breath, so I suddenly let out a huge sigh of relief. Thank God for women who see through the BS and support each other!

As the temperature continued to soar, we were finally called up onto the stage to be introduced by Milton Cunha, a famous Carnival personality. What the other Muses didn’t know was that I had already met him the previous time I was Muse, when he had come to Estacio de Sa samba school rehearsal especially to interview the “Samba Kangaroo”.

Milton Cunha interviewing me at Estacio de Sa

Milton had kept a close eye on my Samba career over the years and immediately ran to me with arms open wide, and we embraced like long-lost friends.

Darling you look fabulous! OMG! Your outfit! Your make up! I can’t believe you’re going to be the first Aussie Muse in the Grupo Especial! How spectacular are you?

Yet again, I LOVE GAY MEN!

Milton Cunha and I at the City of Samba

But if looks could kill, I would have been 6-feet under at that point. If I thought the reception by the Aussie dancers had been frosty, then I suddenly found myself in the middle of an arctic blizzard.

Luckily for me, at that exact moment, the cameras started rolling and fake stage smiles were instantly plastered on the other Muses’ faces. The cameraman did a sweeping pan of all of us, and then focused in on Milton as he introduced us individually. We all had our moment in the spotlight, and then were told to Samba as the bateria fired up.

If I was a competitive person, I would have frantically made my way to the front of the stage like they all did, rushing to push past, almost tripping each other in the race to appear for an extra 3 seconds on TV. But because I’m not (and probably more because I was a good foot taller than everyone and could be seen from a mile away, especially in my 6 inch heels!), I quietly stayed back and just enjoyed the moment, despite my publicist signalling furiously for me to move to the front

Once we were done, she came up to me and asked why I had stayed back.

Ah Gisele, I’m getting too old for all of this! Plus, if those women are capable of doing that on camera, imagine what they can get up to off it? I don’t want to put myself through any more stress and most certainly don’t want to put myself in any danger. And by the looks of their entourages, I think it was a wise choice.

We both turned to look as each Muse was escorted out by a big, burly boyfriend or a much older male companion (sugar daddy perhaps?), many of whom I recognized from the street rehearsals as being high up in the samba school.

It was yet again another reminder of how my reality was so very different from theirs, and once again made me appreciate my homeland and the privilege and freedom I had to dance Samba for my own joy and self-expression.