A Michael Jackson impersonator performed atop a silver float, and Madonna and Jesus watched from a crowded balcony, but all eyes were on seven-year-old samba queen Julia Lira as she strutted her stuff in front of thousands of people at Brazil’s world-famous carnival parade in Rio de Janiero last night.
But the pressure proved too much for Julia, the youngest drum corps queen in memory at Rio's lavish party, who broke down crying just minutes before the parade began after realising she was at the centre of everyone’s attention.
Julia’s inclusion in the parade drew the ire of child welfare advocates two weeks ago who had asked a judge to keep her from dancing. However a family court judge ruled last week that, despite her young age, the tiny dancer could take on the coveted Carnival role which is normally reserved for scantily-clad models and actresses.
Dressed in a feathered purple miniskirt and sequined halter top and wearing purple and silver gladiator-style sandals, Julia shuffled through the first 50 yards of the parade, leading the Viradouro samba group float. Her father — the president of the parading Viradouro group — then took her by the hand and presented her to the crowd as she smiled broadly for the photographers and blew kisses to the crowd.
But 10 minutes into the parade and surrounded by dozens of photographers and television cameramen, Julia broke down in tears and was immediately scooped up into the arms of her unofficial handler, the group's spokeswoman Joice Hurtado, and taken away from the attention.
After a five-minute break, Julia returned to her place in front of the group's massive drum line, but was quickly whisked through the parade grounds by her father and out of the media's eye. About 20 minutes after that, she bounced back and began to samba at the helm of the parade — though television coverage steered clear of showing Julia to millions of viewers.
Before the parade began, Julia's father, Marco Lira, had declared that “she's happy, she is ready to dance.”
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