The woman who will be inaugurated as Brazil's next--and first female--president on January 1st went through a tough metamorphosis to look nicer during her campaign.
63-year-old Dilma Vana Rousseff is definitely not a Brazilian woman cliché. The former aggressive left-wing militant is about to take the major chair in one of the most high-profile countries that emerged in the last few years. As president of Brazil, Rousseff is automatically raised to a fairly visible position. She has already been listed by Forbes as the 16th most powerful person in the world, just ahead of Steve Jobs, Nicolas Sarkozy and Hillary Clinton. The undeniable accomplishment of achieving presidency as the daughter of a Bulgarian father and Brazilian mother was not easy. Rousseff underwent dramatic physical and character changes to conquer current President Lula's electors, who were captivated by his charisma - which, as verified in the October elections, gave the expected results. Rousseff beat her opponent with 56% of the votes.
The strict, serious and even unfriendly look that took her decades to build had to go down in less than a year to make her look friendlier, according to the established plans of the Workers Party (also called Partido dos Trabalhadores).
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The first step of the metamorphosis came on April 2009, when she submitted herself to a dental treatment to fix her teeth and get a gentler smile. It included aesthetic procedures such as dental alignment, clearance and filling. The move was succeeded by plastic surgery in December 2009. A lifting and a blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery) helped her acquire a more youthful look and less crabby expression than she used to carry when she commanded the Presidential Staff Office during the Lula government. All of those changes were followed by the well-known dermatologist Denise Steiner, who also treated the former mayor of São Paulo (and Rousseff's party colleague), Marta Suplicy.
Those procedures, normally painful and invasive to all humans, were particularly overwhelming for Rousseff due to the fact that she underwent them on the same year she was diagnosed with lymphoma. It took her four sessions of chemotherapy to eliminate the cancer. "I'm using a little wig, but I hope to get rid of it as soon as my hair starts growing again, because it's really annoying," Rousseff said in a press conference in May 2009.
As soon as her treatment ended and her hair began growing back, more physical changes took place. For one, she started using sunscreen. She also began using the right lipstick color and powder blush for her skin tone. Then, in August 2010, her long-time friend and campaign coordinator, Fernando Pimentel, brought from São Paulo to Brasília (the nation's capital) the trendy Brazilian hairstylist, Celso Kamura, to create a haircut she could live with on the next few months of hard work. Kamura chose a haircut inspired by Venezuelan fashion designer Carolina Herrera. The suggestion was approved by Rousseff, who also agreed to change her hair color to a lighter brown. Kamura redesigned her eyebrows (and tried) to smooth her aggressive eyes. "Arched eyebrows can make a woman look sexy or angry. For her age, it didn't make her sexy at all," says the hairstylist. Now, once every two months, Kamura is taken to Rousseff, wherever she is, to maintain her look. She also hired a personal makeup professional who traveled with her all over Brazil before the elections.
The final change was less noticeable because it involved an area where Rousseff wasn't willing budge: clothes. Not that she was ever passionate for clothing, but Brazilian stylist Alexandre Herchcovitch, who was hired to dress her up, couldn't make her get rid of certain pieces, or make her use more fancy clothes. Rousseff clearly preferred comfortable outfits, especially after she gained over 6kg over the course of her cancer treatment. So, after a month, Herchcovitch quit and advised on his Twitter page: "None of the outfits she's been using were created by me."
If an extreme makeover such as the one she went through would be the dream of many women, it's also important to note that Rousseff's lack of vanity didn't appear out of nowhere. As a child of Belo Horizonte elite, a traditional Brazilian town with a population of two million, she was raised to be an elegant lady, marry the son of a respectable city household and live a comfortable and pampered life.
But her politically obsessed spirit led her down an unexpected path for a 16-year-old girl, which included youth militancy during the Brazilian dictatorship of the 70s, arrest, torture and jail for nearly two years. It changed her. It made her a harder person, sometimes brutal and severe, and that is reflected in her looks. The looks that took her 40 years to construct and one year to try to change.