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Matt Norman

Beauty Queens

Posted from: Benjamin Constant
The big shoot tonight will be following Bruce as he enters the Benjamin Constant Carnival Beauty Pageant. Rob and I arrive early evening to film a time-lapse shot of the arena as preparations are underway and the dusky sunset turns to night. I set the camera to record one frame every six seconds so that when the image frames are played back at the normal 25 frames per second (as is the normal frame rate) the transition of dusk into night, with clouds whizzing across the sky, appears 300 times faster. As we wait for the time-lapse to record, the band and compere test the sound PA for what is sure be a night of Brazillian mayhem.

Bruce dresses up for the pageant
Bruce dresses up for the pageant

Bruce has been trying on outfits for this evening’s event but all is under wraps until he gets made up with the other beauty contestants later on. We are told to arrive at 20.30 but with the usual Brazillian laidback approach to timekeeping it strikes midnight and the other queens are yet to show.

By now the crowd is really building up and motorbikes whizz around outside of the arena. Inside the crowd is jumping to the Brazilian beat. It's a real family affair with young and old as well as the sexily attired Brazilian girls one would expect at carnival. Bruce has still not changed and he looks nervous as he paces up and down practising walking in his pink stilettos.

Matt films the bloca parades
Matt films the bloca parades

Word comes that the rest of the queens have arrived so we climb a rickety wooden structure above the main stage and meet mayhem. Trousers are being cast aside and it's bras and fishnets everywhere. The dwarf (it would be better if I used his name but don't know it) was running around in skimpy knickers looking for his wig.

With no luck he borrows Pete's fluffy grey windshield from his microphone, puts it on his head and instantly looks like a mini Tina Turner. I pan the camera around the other way and am greeted by the combination of large hairy bum and skimpy G-string and pan again to a rather butch man trying to squeeze into a silver mini-skirt. Bruce has opted for a fetching red miniskirt with a matching crop top and starts the transformation from explorer to beauty - well, if you squint a bit, and a bit more.

The final effect - Bruce dressed up as a drag queen
The final effect - Bruce dressed up as a drag queen

Our location for this madness was just perfect as in the back of the frame for these shots was the arena with a huge crowd and catwalk so the pressure was really building for these girls. The atmosphere was electric. The funniest thing I have ever shot in my documentary career was Bruce having his make-up applied. I just could not stop laughing as I did my best to hold close-up shots steady of the eye liner, mascara, blusher and lipstick all being carefully applied by the make-up artist.

Nicely in the back of shot was the shimmering light of glitter streamers and the jumping crowd yet no matter where I asked Rob to hold the light I just could not get a flattering shot. It was just so hard to even hold the camera still with all the laughing. Quickly, all of my past experience of trying to film flattering shots of ladies was thrown out of the window as with most of these 'girls' there was just no hope. There were some pretty ugly queens here.

Next we filmed some more close-up shots of the other beauties having their make-up applied. The best shot was when a beauty pouted to have bright lipstick applied only to reveal a huge brace across his teeth as he smiled at the camera. The queens were now bonding, drinking and hugging. I think Bruce, in choosing a blond wig over brunette, had gone a little more Lilly Savage than Monroe and my money for the winner had to now be on the dwarf or the big guy who had eventually squeezed into that silver mini.

Pete goes beyond the call of duty with Bruce's frock and frills

Suddenly it was announced the queens should make their way backstage so we followed Bruce down the rickety stairs and through a door. I filmed a great tracking shoot low on the floor following Bruce's pink stilettos and with a sudden chorus of wolf whistles suddenly realised that we had been sent the wrong way and were in fact now following Bruce as he walked in drag through the busy motorbike car park outside of the arena.
This bumpy concrete was not the best surface to test confidence in high heels so the relief was evident when we made it full circle and back to where we started for more hugging and dancing with the other beauties.

After an endless wait in the early hours the beauty contest was started by the Tina Turner mini Queen who wiggled and danced her little hot booty to the loudest cheers of the night. Each contestant in turn received great applause with Bruce no exception as he spun and jiggled the length of the runway.The beauties bonded and hugged and the winner was announced: the silver mini-wearing blond.

What a memorable night.

Find out more about the Brazilian Carnival


  • 1.
  • At 01:20 PM on 13 Mar 2008,
  • Cathiebean wrote:

I am so looking forward to seeing this part of the series!
Red suits you Bruce!

  • 2.
  • At 07:34 AM on 14 Mar 2008,
  • natalie blyth wrote:

i must say the bbc newsletter for the amzon is verry time saveing.
but i think they do look good in a dress!!!!!!!
when is this episode previewing

  • 3.
  • At 11:30 AM on 14 Mar 2008,
  • eleanor knight wrote:

Bruce - great legs. I remember them from junior school.

  • 4.
  • At 03:07 AM on 16 Mar 2008,
  • Anne Jones wrote:

I think the black and pink number suited you, Bruce, better than the red. Looking forward to the Amazon series, although we haven't seen the last series of Tribe yet here in Australia!

  • 5.
  • At 07:26 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Richard Butler wrote:

Glad to see the BBC budget stretches that far!
Weldone, but I much prefer the trouser look, sorry.


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