Having captured the hearts of millions of Brazilians with her portrayals of several memorable characters in Brazil’s ever popular novelas, Camila Pitanga has earned her wings as a top actress and one of the most visible black actresses on the air. Her success is the fruit of hard work, an early start (appearing in the film Quilombo at age 6 in 1984) and having a famous father couldn’t have hurt (father Antonio Pitanga is a long-time actor). Of her role as Rose, an ex-domestic in the novela, Cama de Gato, Pitanga says: “I identify myself with Rose because she is a fighter and I have this reference in my family. My father is a man of humble origins from Bahia, he was a mailman and it was the arts that created his identity. Rose will not become an artist but she has a dignity that I identify with.”
Camila’s mother, Vera Manhães, was also an actress. Having two acting parents partially explains how Camila began so her career at such a young age. At age 12 she began studying theatre and earned her first role in a television mini-series, Sex Appeal, in 1993 at the age of 15. Since then, she hasn’t turned back, being a consistent presence on a number of popular novellas including 1995’s A Próxima Vítima, a series that portrayed the first middle-class black family in the history of Brazilian television. This was also a series in which she worked with her father, Antonio. She has also appeared in 1997’s Malhação, Pecado Capital (1998). She would portray her first protagonis tin 2001’s Porto dos Milagres. Other career highlights include 2003’s Mulheres Apaixonadas in which she portrayed a neurosurgeon and Paraíso Tropical (2007),in which she portrayed the prostitute Bebel, a role that screenwriter Gilberto Braga didn’t think she could pull off. Pitanga interpreted Bebel brilliantly in a role that but that would ultimately catapult her into sex symbol status and win her numerous awards.
(In Brazil), November 20th is the National Day of Black Consciousness … For you, is this a special date?
Of course! I’ll never forget the year that I celebrated this day with my father at a beautiful event that he directed and we had the presence of the great leader Nelson Mandela.
You and Taís Araújo were the protagonists in the novelas Cama de Gato and Viver a Vida, respectively. Does it feel like a special moment for black artists on television?
I think it’s a great achievement; however, I will point out that a full and historical achievement when a black person occupies the position of protagonist and the fact doesn’t generate more discussion or reports in the press. What I mean is: when this is so natural that no notices it as an exception but as a mirror of our reality.
How do you analyze the space of blacks in the arts, especially in TV and movies? Do you believe, like most, that there is a lack of good roles for blacks, but only the stereotypes (domestics, thief, drug dealer …)?
I believe that progress had been made and today the blacks stand out in important roles. I’ve acted in leading roles as a doctor and a model. Tais Araujo is portraying her third protagonist, we have the names of great black actors who have prominent roles in film and TV, like my brother Rocco Pitanga, Lázaro Ramos, Aílton Graça, among other important actors.
* – This verbal exchange is common for black Brazilians of all skin tones
** – I’m intrigued by Camila pointing to only her father as black. Although it appears that her mother, former model and actress Vera Lúcia Manhães, may have been lighter-skinned when she was younger (see photo above with Antonio), today she appears to be quite dark-skinned. It is of course also possible that her mother could identify herself as a person of indigenous descent.
Source: Black Women of Brazil