RIO DE JANEIRO - A Brazilian woman who was bullied by fellow students and expelled by her university for wearing a miniskirt had the last laugh on Monday when she was transformed into a star of Rio's annual Carnival.
The image of Brazilians as an easy-going people took a hit around the world in October when video posted on the Internet showed Geisy Arruda being hounded out of her Sao Paulo university by hundreds of students, some of them shouting "whore."
The private Bandeirante University expelled the 20-year-old tourism student for "provocative" behavior.
"What happened to me really stirred people," Arruda told reporters as she prepared to parade perched high on a huge float that she shared with drag queens. "People related to me and have been very kind - this has strengthened me a lot."
The theme of the parade by the Porto da Pedra samba group was art and the world of fashion. Arruda played the part of English queen Elizabeth I. In a cheeky nod to the source of her fame, she wore a dress styled on the tiny pink skirt that got her expelled.
"My outfit represents the virgin Queen Elizabeth. It's a mixture of Geisy and Queen Elizabeth," she said. She added she felt an affinity with the 16th century queen because Elizabeth also "suffered a lot of prejudice" for being unmarried.
FROM OUTCAST TO CELEBRITY
The university later readmitted Arruda after being criticized by government officials and others.
But by then the young woman had become a celebrity in the Latin American country, which has a strong conservative streak despite being known for its racy Carnival and tiny bikinis.
Arruda reportedly had about $20,000 worth of plastic surgery as part of her preparations for the Carnival parade, including liposuction and touch-ups of her breasts and buttocks - a common step for Carnival queens looking to boost their stage presence.
"Since they put her in this situation, she has to take advantage," said 58-year-old spectator Inaura dos Santos Martins. "I am much older and I love to wear a little skirt."
The second and final night of parades by the major samba groups, known as schools, signals the winding down of Carnival after days of rowdy street parties and drunken abandon.
The self-styled biggest party on earth has drawn more than 700,000 visitors to the beach-side city. The city, which will host the 2016 Olympics, experienced few serious crime or security problems during the days-long celebration.
However, the mood was soured on Sunday by the discovery of the body of a young girl in a Carnival costume who police reportedly said appeared to have been sexually assaulted and strangled. Police were still trying to identify the girl, estimated as being between 6 and 8 years old, according to Brazilian media reports.
The role of children in the sexually charged Carnival celebrations had become a heated topic after a 7-year-old was selected as the youngest Rio Carnival queen in memory. The girl, Julia Lira, burst into tears when she paraded early on Monday morning as media swarmed her, but she recovered some poise to complete the parade.