When Samantha set off on a girls trip to Rio de Janeiro 12 years ago she never expected the trip to transform her life in the way that it did. The now 38 year old was, and still is, a London girl through and through and yet she fell in love with a place that couldn’t be further from her hometown.
In a bold and brave move, she ditched her high powered job in England, packed her bags and jetted to Brazil to “see what would happen” and the outcome is amazing.
This year she became the very first non Brazilian woman to lead the world famous party as the Rio Carnival Queen, and now she’s launched a business to allow other people to experience the wonder of this magical event too. Speaking to Lumity Life Magazine she talks about discovering your passion, having body confidence and why you’re never too old to samba.
Samatha recalls, “I loved my job. I ran around like a lunatic working every hour of the day, but I loved it. However there was always a little bit in me which thought I don’t want to be in London my whole life. I just didn’t know where else I wanted to be or what I wanted to do.”
But within 24 hours of arriving in the exciting city with her friends she realised; “This is where I want to be.
“The vibe was amazing, the people were so friendly and on top of that it was beautiful,” says Samantha.
Six months later she returned alone with seven suitcases in tow, having left her life in London and decided to give living in Rio a go.
“My mindset was, if it doesn’t work, I can always go back home. I didn’t want to regret not trying.”
When she first arrived, Samantha worked for a charity teaching English in one of the country’s largest favelas, but it wasn’t long before she discovered what would become a life changing passion.
“I got taken to one of the samba schools by a Brazilian friend and when I walked in I was blown away,” Samantha remembers. “The music, the vibe, the women! They were so powerful and strong. I’d have bowed at their feet if it wasn’t for my friend stopping me. I would never dream that I could be at their level but I did say that from that point I wanted to learn to samba. The joy of the dance, the sexiness and the power was mind-blowing.”
Samantha met a local dancer and they cut a deal where she would teach them English in exchange for samba lessons, and the rest is history.
“What I learned about samba is that it’s a celebration of all shapes, all sizes, all ages which is fantastic. It’s a dance that doesn’t discriminate against anyone. It’s about passion and culture and that’s what I loved about it.
“You are all in it together. It’s not got this crazy competitiveness about it. Of course there are different levels of samba, but it’s more about everyone getting involved including those with two left feet.”
Over the years, Samantha became more and more dedicated to the dance and was thrilled to make it into the Rio Carnival. The show-stopping extravaganza sees thousands of dancers performing with their samba schools on floats in front of five million spectators spread out in a stadium and on the streets.
But when she was asked to take the top spot as the ‘musa abre alas’ and lead the famed procession the nerves kicked in – especially as she was the first ever non Brazilian to take on the role.
Samantha trained harder than ever for 12 months during which she would box for two hours, practice samba for an hour and also hit the gym. She did this not only to look her best in her costume but to be able to physically lead the way.
“You have to be fit because it’s very fast and intense and you are in 10 cm heels with a ton of feathers on your back, a heavy sparkly headpiece on and you still have to look elegant.”
When the day came she admits: “It was very emotional” and likened stepping out in front of the crowds to that of a football team entering a packed stadium of fans.
“You don’t want to let anyone down including yourself and you want to give it your best. It was the most amazing experience of my life and an absolute honour to be a part of something which is so important to so many people. It was truly incredible.”
Samantha has launched her own business called, Experience Carnival to help other people be a part of the Rio Carnival.
“I get people here, I get them to carnival, get them on a float and give them samba lessons. They immerse themselves in the entire experience. They know their samba school, their colours, they have a costume and they get to stand out there and be a real part of it.”
Samantha insists this is an experience for anyone no matter their age, size or sex.
“I’ll admit the outfits aren’t huge and there aren’t many places to hide,” she adds. “But the great thing is that it’s not a beauty pageant. If you’re a more curvaceous lady, that is great. If you’re skinny then that’s ok too. It’s about feeling good about yourself and celebrating the female, and the male body. It’s a celebration of life. You get to show off your body in whatever way you feel comfortable.”
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