Interview: Juliana Leandra
Photos Courtesy of Carol Marra
For Chapter 50 of the Frank151 book, we looked at Brazil, its culture, its history, and its political realities. Now with the whole world watching the country during the 2016 Summer Olympics, we revisit some of the defining articles
Carol Marra worked in fashion production before a co-worker asked her to pose for a few photos. Perhaps this photographer could envision Marra on the cover of Trip magazine, Brazil’s sexiest publication, but Marra herself couldn’t imagine becoming one of the country’s most in-demand models in the world.
Along with her ultimate goal of becoming a wife and mother, with both her intelligence and beauty Marra aims to gain respect for transsexuals in society. We spoke to her about her life and success.
Where do you live now?
I’m currently living in São Paulo. I was born in Belo Horizonte and moved to Rio de Janeiro when I started college, but São Paulo has been my new home for a while now.
What did you study in college?
I got my degree in journalism and worked in production for many years. I worked for a TV station first and then started working in fashion production. I was very involved in the fashion world, knew a lot of models, traveled all over, worked on so many events, but never thought I’d be involved with it in any way other than production.
So how did you become a model then?
This photographer I worked with approached me one day and asked if he could do a photoshoot with me. I was reluctant in the beginning because I don’t find myself beautiful. I’m super skinny and have long legs, but he insisted so much I accepted his invitation and it was the beginning of everything. I think the fortunate part of it is that this moment coincided with the androgynous look and genderless trend that arose in the fashion world back in 2010.
What happened next?
He started showing these photos to a lot of people and I did a few other photoshoots until the photos got into the right hands and I was invited to participate in the Minas Trend Preview, a fashion show that happens right before Fashion Rio and São Paulo Fashion Week. It was my first time modeling on a catwalk and it was a success. There were so many famous models there, models that I had previously worked with when I was in production, and my appearance was a big hit. All the reporters, journalists, and photographers surrounded me after the show and I saw a bunch of security guards around, protecting me. It was crazy and definitely came as a total surprise. I’d never imagined in my life that I’d be catching more attention than these other models.
How are you managing this unexpected fame?
Honestly, I don’t like to be famous because it prevents me from reaching my main goal, which is to find a man who respects me as woman, get married, adopt a child, and be a good mother and wife. But since these opportunities are coming to me now, I won’t ignore them and will enjoy the moment for as long as I can.
I don’t like to be throwing it in anyone’s face that I’m transsexual. I try to keep it low-key because I don’t wanna be labeled as such. I’m not a label and don’t intend to be known and referred to as “the transsexual model.” I just wanna blend in. Now I have the chance to show people that transsexuals can have higher values just like everyone else in society, and also eliminate the stereotype that we’re all prostitutes, drug addicts, and always have to be working as hairdressers, make-up artists, or something related to that. We’re normal, we have brains, we can study, we can become whatever we want. I know transsexuals who are doctors, dentists, architects. I don’t like to stick up for anyone, I don’t raise any flags, but think we have to be respected and reach equality.
So you aren’t planning to give this all up now?
No, I’ve been getting invitation after invitation for editorials, catalogues, and more runway gigs, such as Fashion Rio, São Paulo Fashion Week, and Carolina Herrera’s runway show in Paris. Going to Paris made me really excited and I see all these opportunities as a result of my hard work. I’m very grateful for them and on top of that, I have been invited to act in an adaptation of Jean Genet’s classic play The Maids. It’s been a while since I studied theater and took acting classes, so I just started taking classes again with Guilherme Marback, who has also taught Ney Matogrosso. I’m very proud of that and think it’ll be a great play.
How do your parents react to your fame?
They attended one of the fashion shows I was in last year and were shocked because it was the first time they saw my breast implants. But in the end, they realize that what I’m doing is respectable. I’m not standing on a corner selling my body to whoever shows up and pays for it. I’m on catwalks, fashion-related magazines, and billboards, so they end up proud of me. What will they complain about? I’m very honest, well-educated, and have good manners. I’ve never been vulgar in anything I’ve done in my life. Even the way I dress up reflects my integrity. I always go for a more classic style and don’t wear anything indecent. Being a virtuous person is a trait that you have regardless of your genitalia.
How was your life growing up and realizing that you were different?
I had a lonely childhood. It was a painful process. It was never easy for my parents to swallow the fact that I always knew I was born in the wrong body. I never identified myself with the boys and didn’t approach the girls because I wasn’t a girl. Of course there was bullying in school. The kids wanted to beat me up. I’ve always had that androgynous look. People would refer to me as “she” and I remember my mother replying to them saying that I was a boy. When I was a teenager, I started realizing that I liked my girlfriends’ boyfriends and this just confirmed that I was attracted to boys. My head was confused. I knew I was a woman, but born with the genitalia of a man. My parents had a really hard time taking this all in. As I said, even when I got my breast implants a little while ago they seemed upset, but they somehow manage to accept my situation and always supported me financially, too. They paid for my school, my car, and housing until I graduated, and whenever I go visit they give me money and ask if I need anything else. They’re there for me.
Have you had the gender reassignment surgery yet?
Not yet. It’s a long process in order to have the surgery. There’s the treatment phase, the surgical procedure itself, and then the post-operative phase. Here in Brazil, if you don’t have the money to pay for the surgery, it gets even more complicated. I know people who have been waiting for many years to at least start the treatment. The public healthcare system in Brazil doesn’t offer a suitable structure for transsexuals to have the necessary treatment and surgery. Although that isn’t my case, I’ve been postponing my surgery due to my busy schedule. I’m reluctant to leave my work on the side while I recover. I’m in touch with Dr. Marcio Littleton, a master in plastic and sex-reassignment surgeries. Probabilities are that he’ll be the one to perform my surgery and all I can say is that it’ll happen soon.
Any plans for the post-operative period of your life?
As I said before, I relish this moment of my life and think I’m in the right direction to achieve things that will fulfill my real key desires. Having the surgery is something that I’ve longed for and something that will make me feel a hundred percent woman. After this, although fame has been coming my way, I’ll keep doing my best to walk towards my most special goals of getting married, adopting a child, and spending my life with the man who will make it possible for me to carry out my responsibilities as a woman and be a happy mother and wife.