Monday’s Google Doodle is dedicated to celebrating the life of Cláudia Celeste, the first transgender actor to appear in Brazilian telenovelas.
On 22 August, thirty-four years ago, Celeste made her first appearance as an openly trans woman in the debut episode of Olho por Olho.
She was not only an actor, but also a singer, director, producer, and author who paved the way for future generations of transgender and LGBTQ+ talent in Brazil.
Born in Brazil in 1952, the multihyphenate began exploring her identity and talents while in the army. After she served, she went on to earn her beauty diploma and became a hairdresser in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro at age 20.
It was her daily life working at a salon that she says inspired her to transition. That same year, she joined a friend on a theatre audition, where she too landed a role. She made her debut as a dancer in Beco de Garrafas.
Later in 1973, she was invited by a Rio de Janeiro theatre, Teatro Rival, to lead the production of O mundo é das Bonecas, alongside other well-known transgender performers.
Following the show’s success, Celeste’s talents were recognised and she earned greater opportunities to dance and perform productions throughout Brazilian nightclubs.
A few years later, in 1977, she was scouted by a director who had seen her Teatro Rival performance and asked her to join his soap opera Magic Mirror. At the time, nobody in the cast or crew knew she was transgender. It was cancelled soon after when media headlines drew negative attention.
As a result, Celeste left for Europe to pursue other things. However, she eventually returned to Brazil where she auditioned for a starring role in Olho por Ohlo. She beat out 200 others and would go on to lead the series. It wasn’t until management “found out” her trans identity that she was ousted from the cast.
It was Celeste’s perseverance in the face of discrimination that cemented her legacy as a pioneer for LGBTQ+ and trans performers worldwide.