Tears, tentative steps for preteen samba queen

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Famed for wearing a short miniskirt that got her kicked out of college, Geisy Arruda lived out a dream and danced as a Carnival queen in one of Rio’s premier samba parades — even overheating in the process.

Wearing a “Carnivalized” version of the very dress that got her expelled last October, the 20-year-old Brazilian who recently had cosmetic surgery danced and flashed beaming smiles to the crowd and millions of TV viewers.

But the Carnival dress modeled on the miniskirt that rocketed her to fame came back to haunt her, as Arruda was helped off a parade float after falling ill by the end of the 80-minute parade in Rio’s sweltering summer heat.

In tears, she tugged at the red-sequined garment and asked for water.

“I need to take this off, it’s too hot!” Arruda was heard telling a parade official as she tugged at her Carnival costume.

Lying down on the floor of the parade grounds, she weakly mumbled to the Globo television network that despite getting ill from the heat, the experience “was good, it was great.”

She quickly received help at a medical office, where she rested, drank water, and quickly recovered her composure.

A jovial blonde from a poor family in Sao Paulo, Arruda made headlines across the globe last fall when she was expelled for wearing a miniskirt to class.

Three months and four plastic surgeries later, she re-emerged this Carnival season, parading in the nation’s biggest parties.

Standing atop a gilded Carnival float resembling a massive English palace, Arruda danced gingerly. She said a doctor warned her not to exert herself too much because of the recent cosmetic surgeries.

Holding court with the media just before her samba group’s parade began, Arruda flaunted her short, red sequined dress, a design inspired by what she was wearing the day she was booted from her university.

Her face dotted with gold sparkle and red imitation gems, Arruda bantered about the joys of Carnival, and how she turned a bad episode in her life into something good.

Above all, she emphasized how she loves having her photo taken, and was looking forward to parading before 80,000 spectators and hundreds of photographers.

“I confess, I’m a vain girl, and the changes I’ve made have given me the confidence I need to dance in these Carnivals,” Arruda told The Associated Press.

Arruda managed a respectable dance, but was upstaged at times by a policewoman who made headlines in Rio for accepting an invitation to be a Carnival muse for the same Porto da Pedra samba group.

Julia Liers, dressed in sparkling heels, red thigh-highs, a massive blood-red feather back piece and not much else, put on a samba clinic just 10 feet (3 meters) in front of Arruda’s float. She sensually stalked the parade grounds, delighting those in the crowd, especially the men.

“Is that the cop?” one man was heard saying. “Oh, man. I want to be locked up then!”

A female spectator eyed Arruda, perhaps with some envy.

“She should enjoy it, but the girl doesn’t samba very well,” Rafaela Mara said. “A girl like me from one of the slums could dance a lot better than her.”

Joao Victor Silva, a drummer for Porto da Pedra, was thrilled to have Arruda in the group. “I think it’s inspiring how she turned a terrible situation into something extremely positive.”

On Oct. 22, Arruda was forced to cover herself with a professor’s white coat and was escorted from class by police amid a hail of insults and curses from other students. Videos of the incident went viral on the Internet.

The uproar caused her college to take disciplinary action — against her, not those who belittled the jovial blonde. She was expelled for what officials called provocative behavior in a country widely known for revealing clothing.

A national outcry ensued, and Arruda was quickly reinstated.

But she never returned, saying initially that she feared for her safety. Instead she went under the wing of a few stylists and hairdressers in Sao Paulo who saw her battle as one against sexism and discrimination in Brazil’s macho culture.

Before Rio’s Carnival, she danced in Salvador and her native Sao Paulo for the cities’ parades.

That Arruda is even in the limelight is a testament to the ability to recreate oneself in Brazilian society, some argue. Others see her as a product of reality-television culture in which any bizarre incident can turn someone into a celebrity.

“I totally agree with her taking complete advantage of this situation to give herself a better life,” said 23-year-old Sabrina Bispo, who was getting some sun on Ipanema beach. “She comes from a humble family, and I challenge anyone in a similar situation to say they would not do the same.”