Every February in Rio de Janeiro, carnival descends upon the city. It is a religion in Rio as much as futebol and beach-going. Revelers fill the streets from pre through post carnival at blocos (themed street parties where music groups play) while samba schools practice their routines and create their elaborate costumes in the favelas and designated warehouses. The Sambodromo, where the main samba school competitions take place, becomes a small city of its own during carnival.
While the majority of Cariocas and tourists are focused on the samba school parades inside, a rich pageant takes place outside and back stage at the Sambodromo. There are costumed, sequined, feathered people in various states of dress and undress who form the rich visual backdrop to the makeshift city. Leggy girls flash their sparkles and metallic colored, strappy shoes. Countless passistas mill around talking to their friends, fixing their makeup, and double checking their routines in the lanes leading into the Sambodromo. Passistas are the dance queens and princesses of samba—some are famous and others are still growing in their reputations. Their role for keeping up the energy of the schools through their singing and dancing also extends to keeping the crowds engaged. They are perhaps the unofficial icons for Brazilian femininity in Brazil and abroad. Undoubtedly, they also are endlessly stereotyped and projected upon for their sexuality and over-the-top outfits. The younger passistas are playful and light hearted but seem to take their place in the samba school seriously. Will their carnival pursuits remain a hobby or will their aspirations move them to try to land a position within one of the famous Samba schools one day?