The funny thing about Brazilians is that they are incredibly suspicious of anything involving the U.S. government in their country, or foreigners who dare set foot in the Amazon, but they will kiss the ground of any major celebrity that goes to Brazil. Most of the time, they're there on vacation or to promote themselves, but not always.
That's why Madonna in Brazil is absolutely terrifying to me.
First off, I should point out that though Madonna is still undeniably a big celebrity in the US, it's gotten to the point where a lot of us are mostly just scared of her. We have also grown used to her diva whims, from deciding she's a Jew with her Kabbalah "conversion" to strong-arming Malawi into an essentially illegal adoption of her second African child. It's not that she doesn't do anything useful; she started a non-profit in 2006 called Raising Malawi to aid orphans there. But in Oprah-esque fashion, instead of building 1000 schools and 1000 hospitals, she decided to build a single school for $15 million (incidentally, local villagers are blocking its construction). This is why celebrities should not be in charge of development.
Anyway, along came Jesus Luz, the strapping 23 year-old Brazilian model, and Madonna forgot about Africa for awhile. Now, she's in Rio with him, where her agenda is extremely odd and frankly, is just highly suspicious to me. According to some, she's supposed to meet Jesus's parents for the first time, since he is serious about their relationship and wants to get married, which would be Madonna's third marriage. The other thing is that she was supposed to meet with AfroReggae, one of Rio's most successful non-profits, to discuss working with them on projects and to visit several favelas where they work. Mysteriously, she cancelled the meeting and the excursions, though she did meet with a group of kids from a different non-profit--but they had to meet her at her hotel (Fasano, claro). Methinks all those upper class Brazilians she's hanging out with scared her away from the favelas.
Despite cancelling the AfroReggae plans, she had plenty of time to hit several upscale restaurants around the city, including Sushi Leblon and Yume. She also hung out with her buddy, zillionaire Eike Batista; he lent her his private jet for her trip and let her work out at his house. She's due to go to a big dinner he's hosting tonight along with Rio's mayor and governor, who are quite nearly drooling about the meeting. She's allegedly in Sao Paulo this afternoon to visit a Kabbalah center and to meet with a rabbi, and later she is expected to meet with Lula's Chief of Staff and presidential candidate, Dilma Rousseff, as well as the first lady. Maybe I'm just skeptical, but I find it incredibly inappropriate for a celebrity of her caliber to meet with so many politicians, especially on the eve of an election year and what is on a supposedly leisurely visit. It's just fishy.
Additional note: the military police have been escorting Madonna everywhere, and even got into a tiff with paparazzi when she first arrived in Rio. Does anyone else think it's inappropriate for the government to provide free security to Madonna when it doesn't even provide it to far too many Cariocas?
While it's true Brazil is very popular right now (I cannot wait to pick up this week's Economist), Madonna is in a way just like almost every other gringa I met in Rio, the majority of whom were there because of a significant other. I loved Brazil from the second I got there for the first time, but if it hadn't been for Eli, it's very possible I would have wound up moving somewhere else in Latin America. I have to give Jesus credit, who seems like a vapid model but could likely be the one encouraging all of these different plans.
The point is, I suppose, is to beware of the wolf in sheep's clothing with terrifyingly muscular arms. Just ask Malawi.