Styled by Dudu Bertholini
Hair & make up by Lau Neves
Photo assistant Arnaldo Borensztajn
Retouched by Jeremy Dyer
Special thanks to Vinicius Navarro and Ronald Monteiro
I have loved Rogéria since I was a young boy. I grew up in Brazil, at a time when anything queer was taboo, and she was my first reference to something beautiful, different, exotic and yet cheerful, proud and celebrated by everyone.
I have wanted to photograph Rogéria for a long time and I was very excited when after more then a year pursuing her, we were able to finally schedule a date. Rogéria is a busy lady, but it was all worth it as she arrived lovelier, more intelligent, entertaining and fabulous then I could have ever imagined.
Born in the State of Rio de Janeiro and an excellent soccer goalie, Rogéria gave up on a possibly brilliant sports career when at 15 she tried on a wedding dress and realized she preferred a different kind of audience, and would much rather play with two balls, than of one. Songs have been written about Rogéria, who has performed all over the world, met many powerful people and has won a Mambembe award (equivalent to a TONY award) for her theater work in Brazil.
Stunning, sharp tongued, courageous, inspiring and the ultimate icon to all Brazilian gay and trans people, Rogéria has gathered many compliments but above all, her talent has captivated the minds and hearts of all Brazilians for over 50 years.
Rogéria was born 70 years ago and her real name is Astolfo Barroso Pinto. Ironically, in Brazil, the word 'pinto' is a commonly used slang for penis, and Rogéria very proudly speaks of having kept hers intact. She insists that her macho brother who is also her best friend, still calls her by her childhood nickname 'Tolfo', just so she doesn't loose sight of where she came from. Deep inside, she never feels like a woman, for as she says, "I don't have a woman's soul". Instead, she says, "I have the mind of a woman".
Having started in show business doing hair and make-up for some of the most famous actresses of the time, soon, encouraged by those same actresses, she began performing and became a sensation herself.
Since then, Rogéria has lent her talent to hundreds of theater plays and musicals, movies, soap operas and samba school parades. She has been a judge on some of the most popular TV shows and has been interviewed by the most prominent people in Brazil. Along the way, she spent almost 10 years travelling the world and performing in Portugal, Spain, Paris, Tehran and New York among many other places.
Nowadays, audiences can see her playing a caring mother and grandmother in an acclaimed soap opera in the largest Brazilian TV network.
Her character doesn't take no for an answer - and neither does Rogéria.
During the military dictatorship she says she kept her mouth shut when needed but had to fight for her right to perform and won the battle.
She attributes her determination to her family's constant love and support.
When she was 12, for example, her aunt saw her wearing a yellow skirt and told her mom about it. Instead of harsh words, the mother, asked Rogéria, "Why did you let your aunt see you?". And then she sent her to the movies, where she repeatedly watched 'How to Marry a Millionaire', starring Marilyn Monroe.
In the 60's, Rogéria actually had a millionaire boyfriend who cried incessantly when he got dumped. She wasn't interested in his money for she had met the love of her life, a dark skinned man she called Preto. They met during carnaval in Rio and she fainted when they first kissed. She was deeply in love, which, for Rogéria involves having orgasms, pain in the heart and tears running down her face, all at the same time.
They were together for 5 years and lived with Rogéria's family because her mother wouldn't let her move out. They are friends to this day. But when Preto asked her to choose between show business and their relationship, there was no doubt in her mind. She was born an artist and even the love of her life couldn't keep her away from the stage.
Two major passions, many passionate lovers - some famous and secret, others, just regular guys - and several decades later, Rogéria prefers to live by herself in order to avoid her lovers' jealousy. The common ground between them all is their large cocks. Rogéria is a proud 'size queen' and tells me about one of her lovers who sports a 25cm penis. He is 32 years old now and they have been lovers since he was 19. Another one of her lovers, a 28-year-old sweet-faced man, had an orgasm, just by looking at her.
How did her sexuality change over time? Nowadays, she says, "I don't need to have an orgasm every day, a few times a week is enough". And intercourse is not part of Rogéria's repertoire anymore. But don't try to kiss her and be all romantic in bed. She already gets plenty of love from her adoring fans. In bed she likes the look of disdain in her lover's face. It is the key to her orgasm.
Rogéria hasn't had any plastic surgery, although a car accident in 1981 left her with a visible scar on her face. But that never stopped her either. One month after the accident she was back on stage. When I asked if she had implants on her breasts, she was offended and made me touch them while to my delight, proceeded to smooch them onto my face.
Rogéria has always wanted to be defined and respected by her talent. And that she has greatly achieved. But her charisma and joie de vivre have also greatly permeated everything she does. Whenever she steps out into the streets, hoards of fans, from old ladies who comment on her hair (and declare their adoration) to married men who ask about her perfume so they can buy the same one to their wives, most want to take a photograph next to Rogéria. And to that she always obliges, happily, with her exuberant smile.
She welcomes everyone and we all love Rogéria. I asked her to define herself, to which she simply replied, "I am the transvestite for the Brazilian family".
I don't have words to describe what I experienced that day. Rogéria posed, danced, sang, told stories, entertained and performed for the crew. I wish the whole world could have been with us, for it would have become a better world. Instead, I share these images with you and hope that in some way, they honor the talent of one of the most inspiring and greatest beauties I have ever met.