Maybe it’s the Rio Olympics, but lately I’ve been daydreaming about the Brazilian Bombshell, Carmen Miranda.
(Technically she wasn’t Brazilian, she was from Portugal. But who’s counting hairs?)
Decades before Charo, this little Latin bombshell charmed Hollywood with her platform shoes, Bahia dresses, and the gravity defying fruit on top of her head. She was the first Latina to make her impression in the concrete in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater and in 1945, she was the highest paid woman in the United States.
Despite her popularity here, she was heavily criticized in her native Brazil. They believed that she was perpetuating a negative stereotype of Brazil and it’s people. In one of her first American interviews, she stated that she only knew about 20 words in English. Among them; “Money” and “Hot Dog”. Although she alone could be deemed responsible for increasing American tourism to Brazil, and the rest of South American, her countrymen were known to “Boo” her during her stage acts. Even her trademark look was frowned upon because it was not representative of what middle class Brazilians wore, but more of the poor black peasants. Her hit songs like ” The Lady in the Tutti-Fruitti Hat” and ” I Make My Money with Bananas” only continued to solidify her “one note” image.
After WWII, Carmen’s movie career took a dip and the studios no longer invested the money to shoot her movies in Technicolor. Vibrant Carmen was not a star to be watched in black and white. She continued to work steadily on her recording career, always sold out nightclub acts and television appearances.
Even though she’s been dead since 1955, she had a heart attach in her Hollywood home, her style continues to influence today.
Just ask Lady Gaga, Iris Apfel, and Sophia Vergara.