How long have you lived in this place?
I’ve lived in this apartment for three years. Before here, I lived with an ex-boyfriend having moved out of my parents house to live with him. After we split up, I decided I wanted to try living by myself. I love my mother dearly of course, but living here I can play to my own rhythm.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey.
Well firstly I’m a journalist, so I’m usually the one asking the questions! [Laughs]
I was born and raised in São Paulo, the largest city in South America. My career as a journalist started back in 2008, when I worked for the Brazilian media group, Folha de São Paulo. I used to write a daily column for the local newspaper covering the latest TV shows – dramas and soap operas mainly. The column also happened to be published on the the paper’s national website so my face was seen all over Brazil. People would often recognise me in clubs and bars around the city. Weirdly most of them would tell me how much younger I looked in real life! [Laughs]
After almost seven years at Folha de S. Paulo, I decided it was time for a new experience. Rather than reporting the news of others, I felt the need to starting creating content of my own.
I joined Fremantle Media in 2014 and became the Digital Director of their Brazilian studio. I worked on developing the formats for internet and TV, adapting international shows for a Brazilian audience. It was a really great experience but over time my job became much less creative and much more commercial.
From there I made the leap into screenwriting. I started working on a pop culture show called Móv3l, for MTV Brasil. The show focussed on music, fashion and sports and was presented by three hosts. I ended up being the fourth, becoming the face for the online channels and responsible for the programme’s blog and social media.
More recently though I’ve been working as a screenwriter for a reality show called Corre e Costura, which directly translates as ‘Run & Sew‘. The premise focuses on Alexandre Herchcovitch, a famous Brazilian fashion designer, who has to create and construct an outfit in just 48 hours. It premiered on FOX Life in March this year.
Wow, that’s awesome. How has the reaction to the show been so far?
It’s increased the audience of that time slot by 70%, so it’s been a big success. We’re already in discussions about a second season.
Tell us more about your self-funded documentary Eu vos declaro... (I now pronounce you…). How did that project come about?
In 2010, whilst working at Folha de S. Paulo, I was also studying a postgrad in Movies & Documentaries. One morning I received a press release from the Culture Secretary of the São Paulo State, inviting people to submit new ideas for LGBT-themed content – plays, TV shows, books, documentaries – anything that culturally could be speaking about LGBT life.
The following day in class, we were discussing human rights, specifically the right to have a family. Back then in Brazil, LGBT rights were starting to cause a national conversation but gay marriage was still not formally established. I decided to talk to four families living in Brazil who for legal reasons couldn’t be recognised as a unit, to hear their thoughts. The idea wasn’t to discuss the law, but instead focus on the people and the stories behind them.
The movie ended up being shown in five Brazilian states and took part in four national film festivals. Funnily enough, as this was happening, the laws around gay marriage were beginning to change. Protests and demonstrations were taking place everywhere, especially in São Paulo, focussing on issues such as homophobia, gender identity and feminism. It’s now been five years since the Supreme Court approved the equality of civil union. We still have to fight for more recognition and respect, but ultimately it’s a great time to be gay in Brazil.
We still have to fight for more recognition and respect, but ultimately it’s a great time to be gay in Brazil.
That’s really interesting. Our perception of gay culture in Brazil, at least here in the UK, is one of acceptance and celebration. Has this not always been the case?
As Brazilians, we’re renowned for our happiness, our joy and our friendship; we like to receive people and entertain. But we’re a big country. São Paulo itself is a city of nearly 12 million people. In the wealthier neighbourhoods, predominantly in downtown or the west, you’ll often see gay couples walking down the road holding hands and kissing. But in the east, for example – where my Mother lives – many of the men do not display their relationships quite so publicly. It depends a lot on location, I guess.
On the subject of geography, could you tell us a bit about your local neighbourhood?
I live on Augusta Street in downtown São Paulo. It’s a street that’s known for its clubs, bars and theatres. It’s also very close to Paulista Avenue, often considered Brazil’s economical and cultural heart. Many different people move through Augusta Street – we have a rock scene, a gay scene and and lots of young people here.
In the last two or three years we’ve also been seeing more public parties and carnivals in this area of the city. People are moving away from the bars and clubs and starting to reconnect with their streets.
Was it this shift in behaviour that gave you the idea to co-host Domingo Ela Não Vai, your very own street carnival in São Paulo?
Historically, the most important carnival event in São Paulo has always been the official parade. In cities such as Rio, Recife and Salvador however, local street carnivals known as ‘blocos’ are much more common.
Last year, a friend and I were talking about how much we enjoyed this newer and more intimate type of party, so we decided to create our own. During carnival season, samba music is incredibly popular, but instead we wanted to dedicate our bloco to axé, a type of music popular during our childhood involving loads of drums and choreography.
The project was totally self-funded and initially designed to be a small event just for us and our immediate friends. But as soon as we released the first Facebook event, interest boomed. In just three days, we’d had more than 12,000 potential attendees.
The parade happened in the centre of São Paulo and united over 40,000 people. On the day, I vividly remember standing on top of a truck, feeling a feeling that I cannot describe. People were dancing, kissing, screaming and celebrating life in the middle of our city. It was the happiest day of my life.
People are moving away from the bars and clubs and starting to reconnect with their streets.
What are some of your favourite places to visit in São Paulo?
There’s a square behind the public library here called Dom José Gaspar, which used to host weekly outdoor parties. One in particular, Selvagem (Wild) has become really popular. It’s very gay friendly and happens on the last Sunday of every month, now at different venues around the city.
I also really like to shop too, not only in São Paulo but also when I’m travelling. I don’t think I can put my style into a specific trend though – it’s a very personal thing. I’ll often wear jeans and t-shirts but also blazers, tank tops and short shorts. I’m always mixing old stuff with more modern pieces.
How does that style apply to your interior taste? Is it as eclectic as your wardrobe?
I have a lot of paintings and pictures on my walls, many of which have been created by friends. I try to keep my apartment very clean and uncluttered but I also don’t like everything having its place. One thing I don’t own is a dinner table. Every time my mother comes here she complains.
At just 29, you’ve had an incredibly varied career path, being a documentary filmmaker, journalist, screenwriter and carnival organiser. Where do you see yourself going next?
As you may have guessed by now, I’m a huge fan of the arts in all forms. I studied dance a few years ago – two years of jazz and one year of ballet. At school I also used to play euphonium and during college I sang in a choir. I’m certainly not a professional at all of these pursuits but I want to experience all that art can offer me.
At the moment, I’m studying theatre and acting. This July I’m starring in Berenice Morre (Berenice dies), a play that explores the similarities of a party and a funeral. Alongside that, I’m also currently trying to apply my skills to fiction writing. Working as a journalist means I’ve become pretty good at discussing facts and reality but when writing fiction you can lose yourself, go anywhere and create amazing situations. You can make your mind fly. I’ve written a few short stories so far but they’re definitely not ready to be read yet.
One thing I don’t own is a dinner table. Every time my mother comes here she complains.
Wow, that’s awesome. What are you writing about?
Mostly about relationships and how young people can often struggle with their choices. I’m trying to draw on my personal experiences and my community too – what do I want to say about being a gay, black male living in Brazil?
I’m certainly not doing it to become famous. I just want to be able to express myself.