Ayrton Senna is widely recognised as one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time. Born in Sao Paulo, Senna discovered his appetite for racing at an early age and quickly progressed through the ranks. He won the Monaco Grand Prix a record eight times and won the Formula One Championships three times. His career ended in tragedy in 1994 when he hit a concrete wall in the San Marino Grand Prix at 190mph and suffered fatal head injuries. He had been leading the race.
This video shows some of Senna's career highlights:
Gisele Bündchen is a supermodel and is the world’s highest paid by an enormous stretch; last year she earned £45m (in second place was Kate Moss with £9.2m). Gisele graces the covers of all the top fashion magazines, including Vogue, on a regular basis, and for six years was one of the elite Victoria’s Secret Angels. Apart from her model work, Gisele, who grew up in Rio Grande do Sol, has dabbled in acting and producing.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento – much better known to the world as Pelé – is a retired footballer and said by most experts to be the greatest that’s ever lived. He spent his entire career in Brazil and played most of his club football for Santos, who promptly became spectacularly successful. Pelé made the national team at 16 and won his first World Cup a year later. In 1363 professional games he scored 1281 goals – a unequalled record which some say will never be beaten.
This video shows some of Pele's best moments:
Princess Isabel is celebrated for being one of the greatest reformists in Brazilian history. This is largely due to her active promotion and ultimate signing of the ‘Golden Law’ in 1888, which effectively freed every slave in Brazil. She lived in Rio from birth and served as Regent of Brazil while her father (the Emperor) was on world tours (a frequent occurrence). In 1889, just a year after the Golden Law was signed, her family was ousted and she spent the rest of her life in exile in France.
Oscar Niemeyer was an extraordinarily gifted architect who achieved worldwide acclaim for his exceptional designs. His creations are characterised by their unconventional shapes and usage of large spaces. Famous examples include the Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Hyde Park, the UN Head Quarters in New York and the Brazilian National Museum in Brasilia. He hit the headlines in 2006 when he married his secretary at the tender age of 99.
Paola Oliveira is a Brazilian actress blessed with quite stunning genes. Although not well known outside of her home country, in Brazil she is a superstar, having acted in various TV dramas and feature films. She grew up in Sao Paulo and broke into the modelling industry at 16, but eventually went down the acting path after studying performing arts and starring in a number of high profile television adverts. In 2009 she won Brazil’s version of Dancing with the Stars.
Fernando Meirelles is one of the finest Brazilian film directors of all time. He rose to international acclaim with City of God, a harrowing yet heart-warming portrayal of favela life which was nominated for an Academy Award. Other highly approbated works include The Constant Gardner, nominated for a Golden Globe, and Blindness, which opened the Cannes Film Festival – a serious honour in the industry.
Carmen Miranda was as famous in the 40s and 50s as Angelina Jolie is today. She achieved worldwide stardom through her performances in both film and theatre, perhaps gaining most fame from her leading part in The Gang’s All Here, in which she wore a fruit hat. As you do. Her last performance was on the Jimmy Durante Show, during which she suffered a mild heart attack. She didn’t even realise, finished the show, then departed this world the following morning in the wake of a second, decidedly more severe heart attack.
This video shows her in The Gang’s All Here wearing that legendary hat.