Long-time actress Chica Xavier: A career of more than 50 years

black Brazilians

Along with Ruth de Souza and Léa Garcia, Chica Xavier represents the long-time presence of a handful of Afro-Brazilian actresses and is one of the most respected and consistent black women in Brazilian film and television. Below is a brief synopsis of her career and accomplishments. 

Actress Chica Xavier was born in Salvador, Bahia in 1932 (or 1936), in the Quinta da Barra region which is Barra Avenida today. She started working at only 14 years old, in the Imprensa Oficial do Estado da Bahia (Official Press of the State of Bahia), as an apprentice bookbinder.

In 1953, she moved to Rio de Janeiro, where he studied theater with actor, theatre pioneer and diplomat Pascoal Carlos Magno. Three years later, on September 25, 1956, Chica debuted at the Teatro Municipal, with the play Orfeu da Conceição, alongside Haroldo Costa, Léa Garcia, Cyro Monteiro, Dirce Paiva, Clementino Kelé, among others. Chica played the role of Dama Negra (Black Lady), which symbolized “death” and performed declaiming verses of legendary songwriter Vinícius de Moraes and dancing to drums.


In 1962, Chica made her film debut in the movie Assalto ao trem pagador (1962), directed by Roberto Farias. In 1969, she made her debut on television in A Cabana do Pai Tomás, the Brazilian adaption of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She would follow this up with another novela in 1973, Os Ossos do Barão.


Since then she has played more than 50 characters only on television. Her major novela appearances were Sinhá Moça (1986), Dancin’ Days (1978), Renascer (1993), O Rei do Gado (1996), Força de um Desejo (1999) and the miniseries Tenda dos Milagres (1985) where she portrayed the mãe-de-santo (1) Magé Bassã.

In 2005, Chica was invited by actor/director Miguel Falabella to join the cast of the novela, A Lua Me Disse.  Xavier also released a book in 1999, bringing together the songs and prayers that she composed over a period of 30 years, to praise her saints of faith, with an emotional preface by friend and “son of her heart” Miguel Falabella. Chica Xavier canta sua prosa (Chica Xavier sings her prose) (Topbooks) was fully illustrated by her daughter, plastic artist Izabela Queiroz de Jesus, known as Bela d’Oxóssi in the cultural/religious world.
With husband, actor Clementino Kelé

In 2006, Chica celebrated two important anniversaries: 50 years of her career and the Golden Jubilee of her and her husband, actor Clementino Kelé. In an interview, the actress recalls that they met in Salvador, where they both lived, at a New Year’s dance at her school. Elegant, wearing cologne, speaking English and with many of girlfriends at the time, Kelé also has not gone unpunished for this meeting. They lived running into each other in the streets of Salvador, until, following her vocation, Chica decided to go to Rio to study theater in Rio. It was then that they discovered that they were more than friends and felt they could not be separated.

In 2007, the actress participated in the Globo TV network novela Duas Caras. In 2010, she was featured in the film Nosso Lar and in 2012 yet another novela, Cheias de Charme.
With new generation of black actresses, Isabel Fillardis and Sheron Menezes

In the summer of 2011 Chica Xavier was honored with the creation of a Cultural Center that bears her name. Located in the Olaria district of Rio on Uranos street, the center is home to the theater group No Palco da Vida (On the Stage of Life), and is an open space for workshops, courses and performances aimed at enhancing the region’s culture.

Chica Xavier Cultural Center in Rio

The opening of the Cultural Center would feature a library, a video archive with over 10,000 titles on art and culture, as well as a permanent exhibition about Xavier.

The project No Palco da Vida was created by actor Wal Schneider, who runs the cultural center along with fellow actor Victor Meirelles. The theater group, composed primarily of children and adolescents from the Complexo do Alemao region of Rio de Janeiro, began its work in the SESC (2) activity center in the Ramos region of Rio and used the place for its rehearsals.
Members of the project No Palco da Vida

Wal desired a space to better develop his activities and conceived the project. It was Victor,  Chica’s nephew, who suggested the homage to one of Brazil’s greatest actresses. The space chosen was a house almost in ruins in downtown Olaria, which was redecorated and cleaned by the teenagers who make up the group.

Actress honored by family and actors

The space has already hosted some activities open to the general public. These include: child and adult theater, model and mannequin, guitar, singing and interpretation for TV. The visitation is also available for whoever wants to know a little more about the life of this great actress.


Actress honored at the Noite Contemporânea Cine Fest in November of 2011


Centro Cultural Chica Xavier

Rua Uranos, 1363 – Olaria. Telefones: 4103-9442 / 7866-6438 / 8123-9427


1. A Mãe-de-santo is a priestess of Umbanda, Candomblé and Quimbanda, the Afro-Brazilian religions. In Portuguese those words transtate as “mother of [the] saint[s]”, which is a improper translation from the Yoruba language word iyalorishá, a title given to priest women in African religions. Iyá means mother, and the contraction l’Orishá means “of Orishá”. As a product of the syncretism, the word Orishá (elevated or ancestral spirit) was improperly translated into Portuguese as saint. Source: Wiki

2. SESC: Serviço Social do Comércio (Social Service of Commerce) is a private, nonprofit Brazilian institution, maintained by the entrepreneurs of trade in goods, services and tourism, with national operations geared primarily to the well-being of its employees and their families, but open to the general community. Operates in the areas of Education, Health, Leisure, Culture and Healthcare.

Source: No Palco da Vida, Revista Afro

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.