Brazil Queens: Goddesses of Brazilian Carnival

Queens of Carnival - Rainhas de Bateria: Carnival Queens Costumes, Origins & History

On this section, we will explain everything you ever wanted to know about the Goddesses of the Drum Section but were afraid to ask: the Rainha de Bateria position: 

Carnival Drum Queens, Queen of the Drums, Queen of the Bateria, Drummers´ Muse, Percussions Muse, Drum Section Queen, or even Percussion Queens, are some names given by translators to the Brazilian Carnaval expression of Rainha de Bateria.   We decided to use the term “Carnaval Drum Queen” since it best represents, in our opinion, the real meaning of the Brazilian term.   Carnaval Drum Queens are essentially muses that parade in a highlighted fashion, in front of every Drum Section within a samba-school in Brazil´s Carnaval.  Some historians say the origin of this beauty figure, goes back to the fifties and sixties, but only after the mid-eighties, with Monique Evans at Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel, the post achieved the status it has today.  Here all your questions and concerns will be approached, including examples of the glamorous Queen of Carnival Costumes, that so many desire.

Below, a phenomenal photo by Alexandre Vidal of former Rocinha Queen Fabia Borges, leading  the  Drums Section.  One of the best photos if Carnival I have witnessed.

Goddesses of Brazil carnival

Credits:  FOTO BR Agency - Alexandre Vidal - Protected by Law

These Goddesses of Carnaval must possess specific attributes to become an authentic Drum Queen.   As we explained in our Brazil Carnival Frequently Asked Questions, not all Carnaval muses are Drum Queens.   The Rainhas de Bateria are at the top of the social status chain (for women)  within Brazil´s Carnaval and are responsible for “opening and welcoming” the percussionists of the drums section in every major samba school in Brazil.  The post is extremely sought after and sparks lively competition within possible candidates.   The Rainhas de Bateria are generally young ( between 18-50 ), and very physical.  This is so since she needs to have all the necessary energy to samba dance during a series of backstage events such as samba rehearsals, technical parades, shows, promotional video-clips and the samba parties. 

Below, a HD Video of a typical Brazil Carnival Queen Costume that can cost more than US$ 15.000,00.  Evelyn Bastos the actual Queen from Mangueira Samba School is seen on this video, with a great presentation and samba routine!!


Apart from being young and marvelous, the Rainhas de Bateria also have to be very photogenic, as to attract as much attention as possible by specialized media and general public. Carnaval Drum Queens are photographed all year long, and this media interest and exposure adds popularity and glamour to the final showing of the samba school during the official parade.   Within all attributes, charisma is probably the most important one.   A Carnaval Drum Queen in Brazil should be extremely charismatic, being able to arouse empathy in the samba school audience, samba school community, media, and general public.  A classic example is Luiza Brunet, also called "Queen of all Queens." 

Below a HD Video Queen of Drums from 2014, Caprichosos de Pilares: Aline Riscado

These Rainhas de Bateria should be very popular, media friendly and energetic, so that overall opinion and especially drummers and percussionists maintain their enthusiasm about their performance and pride over that samba school.  Ideally, the Rainhas de Bateria also need to be accomplished dancers. ( We have seen in the past though, some first timers that didn’t dance samba at all until their very first parades.)

Below, we see the photo of actress Thatiana Pagung Drum Queen for Mocidade in 2007, with great enthusiasm.

Thati Pagung

Photo Credit: Jaime Silva / Danielle Cezar - Prefeitura da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro

Because of this high-profile, Drum Queens are a vital element and asset within a samba-school to promote its community all year long, and not only during the festivity season.   Also in terms of the artistic style, the Drum Queen adds grace and lightness to that sector of the parade which is mainly composed of men, which is the Drums Section

Now that we know the main attributes a Rainha de Bateria should possess, let’s explain how they are chosen. Samba-Schools in Brazil have a power structure similar to corporations in America, having a president, directors, support staff, etc.   Drum Queens then are basically chosen conjunctly by samba school´s president and board of directors.  At the end of each carnival they review the beauty ´s overall performance.   If the Drum Queen represented the samba-school at the official parade (and parallel events) with energy, empathy, and shine, she may be then qualified to repeat the parade next year.   If she failed, she must then be replaced.  But all of this is very sensitive and subjective.   Many of them have informal agreements with Samba-school, while other has defined contracts.  

The Carnaval Drum Queen post confers high visibility on its bearers and lack of commitment can be a signal for dismissal.  Since there are only 12 spots for this post on each carnival in Rio de Janeiro, considering samba schools from the major league, the dispute for this profile can be exhausting.  Important to note also each samba school parades with only one Rainha de Bateria per parade, since there is only one Drums Section per each school/parade.

Below, we see the photo of actress Nivea Stelmann, who was the Drum Queen for Renascer do Jacarapagua Samba-School, in great ennthusiasm.

Goddesses of Carnaval Nivea by Agenicia FOto BR

Photo Credit: Agencia FOTO BR - Protected by Law

People connected to the samba-schools, like sponsors and partners, may often try to influence the president and the board to push for a specific muse, but the final decision is made by the samba-school president.  Although, the Drum Queen is not paid by the school, there is a lot of interest in the position, on the muses’ point of view too.   Drum Queens are generally pulled from the artsy world, and most of the times they are Brazilian TV actresses, famous dancers, pop singers, celebrities, or even beauty pageantry muses.   But there is no rule.  As an example, in 2009 we saw Natália Guimarães, former Miss Brazil 2007 become the carnival Drum Queen for Vila Isabel Samba School in Rio de Janeiro.  Prior to that involvement, she had never paraded in a major samba school.  As soon as she was officially invited by Vila Isabel´s President, she got huge attention from the media and accomplished for two years a very successful term”as Drum-Queen for Vila Isabel in Rio. 

Below, the astonishing 2011 Queen for Estácio de Sá Shayene Cesário: Great photo by Ricardo Almeida

Shayene Cesario


Every time there is a new Rainha de Bateria, or when the actual one is “re-elected” for the post, the samba-school throws a "crowning party", where the President presents the muse to the press, to the Drum Section  and samba school components.   She then pledges her love and commitment to the samba-school flag.   Her “ruling period” starts instantly in that ritual, and runs for at least one year ( if nothing goes wrong ).   Also important to observe that Rainhas de Bateria are not necessarily “fixed” to a specific samba school.  Much like soccer or baseball teams, the beauty can represent during her life more than one samba school, but generally is identified by the school / parade with which she had most success during her career.   At last, as an interesting curiosity, although the Carnival Drum Queens has all of this repercussion we described above, the performance of the Rainhas de Bateria is incredibly not rated at the official Carnaval contest.   This means the Drum-Queen samba dancing “show” and presentation were still not included as a competition criterion.  (Many carnival journalists have suggested they should eventually become an official competition criterion.)

Below, we see the "Queens of the Queens Luiza Brunet" with Imperatriz Leopoldinense Samba-School for so many years.

Brunet Luiza

Some of the all time legendary Rainhas de Bateria in Brazil include definately include Adriane Galisteu, Luma de Oliveira, Luiza Brunet, Monique Evans, Soninha Capeta, Juliana Paes, Viviane Araújo, Luciana Gimenez, and Thatiana Pagung to name a few.  As a conclusion, these Goddess are probably one of the most interesting and fascinating performances within the Brazil´s Carnaval parade. So next time you are watching a Carnival parade in Rio, try to see their exhuberance and magic!

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