The Time I lied to Bebel Gilberto

Look, I normally don’t lie about being Brazilian. I really have no reason to do so. Unless I’m being paid.

(Is that effed up?)

Anyway, I once had a gig years ago at a highbrow fundraiser for this Endometriosis Foundation at the New York Public Library in Manhattan. The job entailed me greeting guests while dressed in my samba costume before performing a dance number with some other dancers. The hiring dancer let me know that if anyone should ask, to say that I was Brazilian because the client was particular about that. I agreed, doubtful that I’d have to interact with any of the guests enough to reveal so much.
And of course, within the first few minutes of holding my post at the entrance, who arrives but Bebel Gilberto, internationally known Brazilian songstress and daughter of the legendary Astrud Gilberto.

Bebel Gilberto

At that point I wasn’t aware that we were to perform alongside her as part of the entertainment that evening.
Bebel struck up conversation with the hiring dancer and myself, and asked almost immediately if we were Brazilian. The hiring dancer said “yes” for both of us while I just smiled. Then Bebel approached me and started asking about what I do for exercise and whether I was Brazilian. I couldn’t even muster a lie about my parents being Brazilian. I said ‘no’ and she gave me a dirty look and expressed disdain about the practice of people lying about being Brazilian and performing Brazilian music and dance and getting paid for it.
But!!…I didn’t even get a chance to explain. I didn’t have the gall to interrupt her rant and she proceeded to the green room before I could. I think she overheard me speaking Portuguese later in the green room and was confused, or liked me less. I don’t know. Come to think of it, I didn’t exactly lie outright to her, but sort of lied by silent consent…
But honestly. I don’t walk around lying to people that I’m Brazilian on the regular. It’s just one of the questions I get the most, and folks don’t even believe me when I tell them I’m not. And in this case, I was just following orders.

A group photo from that night. I didn’t want to stand next to her.
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