I met Maysa during the final contest for “Young Miss Brazil” in Palacio do Cedro (The Cedar Palace), in April 2014. I was there working on an assignment, so it was really just good fortune that brought us together. When I saw Maysa for the first time, she was wearing a beautiful green dress. I approached her and we had a short talk. I took a picture of her near a tree.
At that time, she told me she was visiting the competition just to check it out. Her true dream was to someday become Miss Brazil.
Four months later, in August, her mother sent me an email. She asked me to make a portfolio of portraits of Maysa. They didn’t have money to pay me, but Maysa really needed the pictures to start working as a model. I decided to shoot her for free.
After taking those photos, I went to her house for a coffee in Brasilândia, one of the most dangerous slums of São Paulo. Maysa told me that she would register for the next competition of Miss Sao Paulo. I said that I would love to know more about the contest and would even like to tell her story through photographs.
Thus, we started to get together frequently to photograph her rehearsals, catwalk lessons, and the whole preparation. I got close to her everyday life and we became friends.
Six months later, Maysa won the state title of Young Miss São Paulo “Black Beauty,” a separate title from Young Miss São Paulo, created to encourage black girls to participate. Racism is, unfortunately, very common, even with most of our people being a mix of several different ethnicities. It’s not common seeing many black people in beauty contests
A few months passed, and we did not have any sign of the final competition. The organizer has disappeared, and after a year and three months Ana Martins Leite, Maysa’s mother decided to go to the court against the brand Young Miss Brazil, in order to do justice.
Maysa’s dream is not over, she is working as a model, participating in fashion shows and thinking about her future.
Maysa is 13 years old.