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  • Crossing Cultural Barriers with Children's Television Programming:The Case of Xuxa
  • Antonio C. La Pastina (bio)

The camera moves among a crowd of children smiling and screaming, "Xuxa, Xuxa, Xuxa."

They carry banners and pompons. They jump and dance. The scene lasts only a few seconds; then the Earth spins in space with the word "Xuxa" orbiting it, until the globe pops open and toys, monsters, and buildings spring from it. Now the chil-dren are singing the refrain of a song: "Hello, hello, hello, it is time for Xuxa to begin . . . " The camera moves at a frantic pace through the crowd, toward the back of the stage where Jelly the Panda and Jam the Jaguar, two adults dressed as animals, greet each other. A giant globe in the background opens, and down the stairs comes Xuxa, a tall blonde woman, singing: "Are you ready to begin / Ready to play or to win / Is anyone feeling down?" She is wearing white shoes, a white shirt, and black Spandex shorts topped by a black miniskirt. The outfit is complemented by a black belt, suspenders, and socks, all with a matching pattern of numbers and mathematical symbols. Her black beret sits on chin-length hair. She descends the stairs slow-ly, singing. As she approaches the children, they are energized, jumping and waving while she acknowledges them one by one.

Jelly and Jam greet her, dancing and doing acrobatics around her. A couple of minutes into the song, there is a close-up of Xuxa, singing and sending a kiss to the viewers at home. As the song progresses, back-up dancers, four girls in their late teens, appear. Each of a different ethnic background, they wear tall white go-go boots with tight white shorts and vests and hats, two in blue and two in red.

Xuxa finishes her first song, waves, and announces the day's activities: "We are going to have the grooviest games, singing, and dancing, and we are also going to meet some marsupials from the other side of the world."1

Earning $27 million in 1993, the Brazilian television personality Xuxa—pronounced Shoo-sha but born Maria da Graça Meneghel—was the first Latin American to make Forbes magazine's list of the world's forty best-paid enter-tainers; she was number twenty-seven.2 According to Amelia Simpson, there are several versions of Xuxa's vault to stardom; the authorized one states that her career started in November 1978 when a magazine photographer saw her on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, followed her home, and asked her parents' permission to photograph her for the cover of a Brazilian magazine published by the Bloch Group (16). During the five years between her "discovery" and her debut as a children's television show host in 1983, Xuxa become one of Brazil's top models (17). The next ten years saw her conquer most of the Latin American children's pro-gramming market, and she invaded Anglophone airwaves in September 1993, when her program started airing on 100 stations across the United States.3 She also entered the recording market in 1985, singing children's songs. Since that time she has become the top recording artist in Brazil, where her twelve records have sold more than 20 million copies. Her Spanish-language records are also at the top of the charts. In the U.S., Sony Wonder has released two of her videos and a record that includes English translations of some of her most successful songs in Portuguese and Spanish. Xuxa has acted in (and produced) several movies for the children's market and had a comic book based on her character for several years in the early 1990s. She presently produces children's programs in Brazil. More than 150 different licensed Xuxa products, including toys, dolls, sandals, clothes, and school supplies, line the shelves of stores from the United States to Chile.

Xuxa thus exemplifies the increasing flow of non-Anglophone entertainers and entertainment products be-tween nations that in the past tended to consume primarily U.S.-made products.4 Such crossover, the successful transfer from one market into another, has...


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