Rio Does A Body Good

The avalanche of models strolling back and forth in nothing but petit summer ensembles during Claro Rio got us wondering about—and hypnotically admiring—Brazilian body shapes. Far from the whole anorexia polemic, street and runway body aesthetics reveal the city’s hedonistic lifestyle, in which the body is used as an important tool to enjoy the carioca routine of sun-and-fun.

In a lecture given to Brazilian textile entrepreneurs a few months ago, top Sorbonne professor and anthropologist Michel Maffesoli noted that culture is communicated through corporal manifestation, which leads people to live under the cult of the body. “Nowadays, aesthetics take more time from us than other thoughts,” he said, adding that Brazil’s mixed-race population and hedonistic lifestyle makes it a preeminent lab to observe the behaviors that are constructing the post-modern identity.

Is there a specific shape for the “new new body” in Rio? Amir Slama, head designer of Rosa Chá, prefers slim and elegant bodies for his ideal bikini model shape. “Every two to three years I’m interested in different body shapes. This season the focus is on less breast and a slimmer silhouette,” says Slama.

Although runway models are super slim, it was common to see defined muscles—especially abs—at Claro Rio. Sérgio Mattos, owner of 40 Graus modeling agency, thinks that “muscles are in” along with defined tummies for girls. Considering the number of gyms that work non-stop (some even 24-hours per day) to help cariocas achieve sculpted bodies for the beach, we can be sure that muscles are definitely popular in Rio. By contrast, Lenny Niemeyer, a swimwear specialist who did the best model casting in the event, thinks that “women can’t loose their proportions and some girls are just pushing it too hard.”

Rio de Janeiro is not just about aesthetically attractive, muscled bodies, however. Filipe Jardim, an illustrator famous for drawing Brazilian models’ portraits and a true carioca himself, explained that Rio girls know that a good shape is linked with a healthy lifestyle full of natural food, juices and sports. “Although I’m travelling a lot, it is very important in my life to have time for surfing. I don’t feel Europeans have the same urge to do sports or eat healthy as we do,” he says.

If sports and healthy food are not enough, cariocas also consider plastic surgery. Dr. Carlos Fernando Gomes, however, thinks that cariocas are over-concerned with their bodies due to the city’s outdoors lifestyle. “To have a smaller belly and thinner waist are some of the main requests here. Latin women don’t go for big breasts like the Americans, which gives them a more proportional silhouette,” says Gomes, who added that the Brazilian body also benefits from pure joie the vivre. “Brazilians, especially cariocas, have a happiness that is unique,” he says.

No doubt this attitude has helped make Rio’s body culture become a great part of Brazil’s national identity. It is also a trademark that, along Rio’s magnificent views, has seduced the international eye for ages.

—Flavia Mendonça

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