A 7-year-old Rio Carnival queen parades in tears and controversy

February 15, 2010
samba

Julia Lira is led by her father Marco (L) to their contingent in the Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro, 14 Feb 2010/Bruno Domingos

A tearful 7-year-old Carnival queen led exuberant drummers through Rio de Janeiro’s  Sambadrome stadium on Sunday, in a distressed state that may add to controversy over whether a tiny child should perform such a high-pressure, sexually-charged role.

Wearing a short purple dress, a sequined halter and a silver tiara, Julia Lira emerged blinking into the bright lights and deafening fireworks of the Sambadrome and soon burst into tears as photographers and reporters scrummed around her before her samba group started its parade.

The selection of a third grader in a role usually occupied by high-heeled models and sex-symbol soap opera stars has sparked a heated debate in Brazil and abroad over the role of children in the annual festival of hedonism. Lira was given the green light to parade by a judge last week after a child protection agency tried to block her because of concern about a child performing in a sexual role.

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