Aug 27, 2009
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Prostitutes turn models for a night in Rio fashion show

Aug 27, 2009

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 27, 2009 (AFP) - Prostitutes became models for a night in Rio as they paraded the latest collection of their Daspu brand, founded four years ago to fight discrimination against their profession in Brazil.

A model presents a creation from Daspu Spring/Summer 2008 collection during Rio de Janeiro Fashion Week. Photo: Antonio Lacerda/EFE/Corbis

The voluptuous mannequins cheerfully exhibited the colorful wear during a nighttime catwalk of sorts, showing off the summer 2010 collection -- "Farofa (fried manioc flour) caviar!" -- inspired by bar and nightclub culture.

They swaggered, hips jutting forward, on a red carpet laid in the middle of Tiradentes Square, in the heart of a decaying historic neighborhood where some 300 prostitutes still work.

"When my hooker girlfriends parade pretty and proud, they are speaking about themselves and become revolutionaries," said Gabriela Leite, 57, after the show.

The former prostitute launched the Daspu label -- a play of words on "das putas" (for the whores) and the posh Daslu department store in Sao Paulo. She also heads DAVIDA, a non-governmental group for AIDS prevention and the protection of prostitutes' rights that represents 4,500 women in Rio state.

The new collection, created in collaboration with designers from the southeastern Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte, sought to show that prostitutes feast on farofa -- a dish popular among the poorer classes -- but also caviar, champagne and cachaca, a sugar cane liquor.

The brightly-hued T-shirts and mini-dresses sported inscriptions like "Daspu a la carte," "Whore serving" or "Puta libre," a reference to the Cuba libre rum cocktail.

This year, the fashion show closed an event organized by the city to "celebrate health and citizenship" that was supported by artists and circus dancers.

Daspu was launched in 2005 as a way for prostitutes to gain regular income while also fighting preconceptions of people affected with AIDS. Sales revenues are reinvested into initiatives combating sexually transmitted diseases.

"Daspu gets rid of prejudice. It opens paths for the citizen whore," said Leite, an activist in favor of regulating the profession.

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