Nilma Duarte's body size never prevented her from dancing samba in public. But now, the "plus size" model wants to put the spotlight on large women, who, like herself, dance samba as a way to improve their self-esteem.
"There have always been overweight people in samba schools, but they were always hidden—in the middle of the group, or the baianas section," said the 47-year-old model who has led Plus no Samba project since 2017. The project helps large women to participate in Rio's carnival parades. She says that when she dances samba, she never worries who is looking at her.
"They said to me' congratulations, how beautiful, you samba'. It seemed that it was something out of the ordinary for someone of this weight to dance," she said during a photo session with six of her "girls" in downtown Rio de Janeiro.
The mother of three became a "veteran" to more than one hundred overweight women who participate in her project. Some of them are now dancing with samba schools.
Duarte created the project because large women would approach her, saying they wanted to have her courage to dance in public. "They needed someone to give them the incentive to guide them."
Translated by Kiratiana Freelon