Friday, May 15, 2015

~ chicka chicka boom boom ~

If you're one of the poor souls who didn't grow up on Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers movies and think that music from the 40s is boring and outdated, then let me catch you up on a bit of history and introduce you to the coolest lady who ever walked this earth in platform shoes and a headdress made out of fruit.

Meet Carmen Miranda.  Now go to google images and drool over all of her amazing costumes.

Carmen Miranda (Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha) was born in 1909 in Portugal and moved to Rio de Jeneiro when she was only a baby.  Her father was abusive towards her mother and highly disapproved of Carmen's love for performing, but her mother supported her passionately.  When her sister got sick and was sent away, Carmen started working in a hat shop to help pay for her medical bills - she later opened her own hat shop, which continued until she was discovered in 1929 and by the next year she was the most popular singer in Brazil.  She is widely considered to be the first Brazilian pop star and recorded nearly 300 songs in her career.

If you know her at all, you probably recognize her for her iconic style (fruit headdress, platform shoes, colorful beads, etc.) but she did not adopt this style until 1939.  If you haven't seen her first American film, Down Argentina Way, go watch it now.  Seriously.

She was in 14 American films in total, but also stared in many Brazilian films, however towards the end of her career, many Brazilians felt she was becoming too "Americanized."  But being the strong woman she was, she responded by recording a song called "Disseram que Voltei Americanizada" (or "They Say I've Come Back Americanized").  After WWII, her career began to dim, as the American peoples' tastes slowly changed.

Her personal life was wrought was sadness - from an abusive marriage, to a miscarriage, to years of depression and drug use.  When she died after suffering from a heart attack, the Brazilian government declared a national period of mourning. 

My deep love for Carmen Miranda has been festering since I was 8.  I have a clear memory of cleaning my room (which from the years 2000-2006 was a lost cause) and singing to her music at the top of my lungs.  That was the same year I discovered high heels and Revlon lipstick, and all three (as you can clearly see) had a huge impact on my life.

Though I may be quite a bit older and several inches taller (but every bit obsessed with platforms as I was then), I still occasionally pull out my handmade headdress (which took a lot of hot glue and a lot of fake fruit), slap on her greatest hits, and shimmy around my room with a vacuum cleaner in tow.

Oh Carmen, how I love you.  Thank you for being such a big part of my life.



  1. Love this post, its fascinating reading about Carmen's life. I love Down Argentine Way, and I recently got hold of The Gangs All Here. Love her costumes, individually, creative flair and sheer determination!
    Jenny xx

  2. Thank you Jenny! Isn't she mesmerizing? SO much more than a beautiful lady with fruit on her head! I'm a huge fan of your blog, by the way :)