Brazil is the homeland of many prominent figures from various fields. Pele, Guga, Paulo Colho, Oscar Schmidt, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho are just a few of the famous Brazilians who have made the world proud with their exceptional work. Here’s an article on the famous people from Brazil.
Brazil, the largest country in South America, is best known for producing some of world’s greatest sportsmen. And not just sports, some of the most famous names in fields ranging from entertainment to social reform are also Brazilian. Enlisted here are some of the most famous people from Brazil, in alphabetical order.
- Known as the Father of Aviation in Brazil
He was a Brazilian aviator and inventor, who was one of world’s most famous people during the 20th century. Born on July 20, 1873, in the town of Palmira, he was raised on a coffee plantation in Sao Paulo owned by his family. Starting as a balloon rider, he thought of designing a steerable balloon himself. He was successful in building dirigibles and flying them. He was quite famous for the aviation trips he undertook. A flight around the Eiffel Tower was one of them and it even won him the Deutsch Prize. He later became interested in building heavier-than-air aircraft and in October 1906, he flew one. In Brazil, he is considered as the Father of Aviation. Interestingly, Santos-Dumont was instrumental in making wrist watches popular among men. He is said to have committed suicide resulting in his death on July 23, 1932. Whether it was a suicide or a planned murder remains a mystery.
- Known as the Father of the Walkman
He is a German-Brazilan inventor of Brazilian nationality. Born in 1945 in Germany, he moved to Brazil at the age of six. In 1972, he invented the stereobelt, a portable personal stereo audio cassette player and the first of its kind. It can be considered as the ancestor of the present-day Walkman, which is why, Pavel is known as the father of the Walkman. When Sony started selling Walkmans in 1979, Pavel asked them for royalties. Sony agreed to pay him for sales in Germany but refused to recognize him as the inventor of the device.
- On the Forbes list of top-earning models in 2012
She is a Brazilian model and actress born on June 12, 1981 in Salvador. Initially, she had not thought about a career in modeling. During her teens, she happened to enter a modeling contest because of one of her friends who also took part. At the age of 15, she topped in the Supermodel of Brazil contest. In a year after that she secured the second position in Supermodel of the World contest. She modeled for Victoria’s Secret, was a promotional model for Maybelline and appeared on the covers of Marie Clarie and Vogue. She featured on the Forbes list of top-earning models in 2012. Her brief acting career included her roles in TV series like How I Met Your Mother and Ugly Betty.
- Winner of three Formula 1 World Championships
Winner of three Formula One world championships, Ayrton Senna was a racing driver who competed in the Formula One for the first time in 1984. He was born on March 21, 1960 in Sao Paulo. He started as a kart racer, then moved to open-wheel racing, and finally to Formula One racing where he had an inspiring career. The first world championship came his way in 1988, followed by two more in 1990 and 91. He was surrounded by controversy throughout his career. During the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix (third race of the 1994 Formula One season), he met with a fatal accident. He remains to be the last driver to have died during a Formula One race.
- Brazil’s most successful swimmer of all time
Born on January 10, 1987, he is the most successful Brazilian swimmer of all time. He has won four World Championship golds and three Olympic medals. He holds world records in 100 m and 50 m freestyle. He has received training from coaches like Gustavo Borges and Alberto Silva and from short distance specialist Fernando Scherer. Cielo specializes in freestyle and butterfly sprint events.
- A medium in Brazil’s spiritism movement and a popular writer; nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1981
Chico Xavier (born on April 2, 1910) was a very prominent figure in Brazil’s spiritism movement. He practiced mediumship. He is the author of over 400 books, which he wrote using the automatic writing technique. His books included novels and writings on religion and philosophy. Biographers say, his mediumship was first seen when he was only 4 years old. After his mother’s death, he went to stay with his godmother who tortured and abused him badly. Very often, he spoke to his mother’s spirit to seek refuge from his suffering. He started studying spiritism in 1927 and began writing in 1931. All his writings were psychographic, which means, he reproduced what the spirits dictated to him. His books garnered immense popularity. His earnings from the books’ sales were given to charity. In 1981, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. A Brazilian TV show conducted a user survey and based on that, named him as the Greatest Brazilian of all Time. He died on June 30, 2002, on the day Brazil was celebrating its victory in the Soccer World Cup. Even after his death, his popularity has hardly diminished.
- Religious leader and businessman in 2013’s Forbes Billionaires List
Born on February 18, 1945, Edir Macedo is a religious leader from Brazil. He is the founder of the ‘Neo-Pentecostal’ Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. There was a period when he had become controversial, as it was believed that people following his teachings were offered material rewards. He was accused of charlatanism and had to spend some time in jail. A doctor of Theology and Christian Philosophy, he continues to be one of the prominent figures in Brazil. He is also the owner of Rede Network, the second-largest television network in Brazil and was enlisted in the Forbes Billionaires List in March 2013.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento
- Pele – the all-time top-scorer , FIFA’s Football Ambassador of the World
Best known by the name ‘Pele’, he is a former Brazilian football player listed among the most illustrious football players of all time. Born in 1940 and named after Thomas Edison, he received his nickname Pele during his years of schooling. His father trained him in football. His early training and dedicated efforts turned him into a great football player. The International Olympic Committee named him as the Athlete of the Century in 1999. He is named the football ambassador of the world by FIFA and is a member of the American National Soccer Hall of Fame. This all-time top scorer from Brazil, is an asset for the country.
- Co-founder of Facebook; net worth – 2.2 billion
Born on March 19, 1982, in Sao Paulo, Saverin is one of the co-founders of Facebook. According to Forbes, he has a net worth of 2.2 billion. Interested in investment and business since his university years, he grew up to become an investor and entrepreneur, and a successful one. When in Harvard, he met Mark Zuckerberg and the two started developing a social networking site – Facebook.
- World’s richest Brazilian and the only Brazilian in the 50 most influential people in global finance
Born on November 3, 1956, Eike Batista is a Brazilian business tycoon who earns from mining and hydrocarbon exploration. He chairs the EBX Group of companies. In the beginning of 2012, he was enlisted among the world’s richest people by Forbes. His net worth was USD 14.9 billion. His net worth had dropped by the end of 2012 but he continues to be the world’s richest Brazilian. He spent his childhood years in Brazil. During teenage, he moved to Europe with his family and chose to stay there even after his parents returned. He started as an insurance agent at the age of 18. After returning to Brazil in the ’80s, he started trading in diamonds and gold. His entrepreneurial skills led him to become a successful businessman. He ranked 8th in the Forbes’ List of World’s Richest People in 2011. He was the only Brazilian to be enlisted among the 50 most influential people in global finance.
- The first Brazilian actress to be nominated for the Oscars
She is recognized as one of the best actresses of Brazil and is best known for her role in Central Station that earned her a nomination for the Best Actress Award at the Oscars. She was the first Brazilian woman to be nominated for the Academy Awards. Born in Rio de Janeiro on October 16, 1929, Fernanda’s original name was Arlette Pinheiro Esteves Torres but she adopted Fernanda Montenegro as her stage name. She embarked upon her career in theater in 1950 with the play Alegres Canções nas Montanhas. She met her husband Fernando Torres there. They married in 1954 and had two children. In the 1960s, Fernanda moved to Sao Paulo and worked in a telenovela. She went back to her theater and film career in the 1970s to resume acting on television in the 1980s. She is known as ‘The First Lady of Brazilian Theater’ and ‘The First Lady of Brazilian Television’.
- Women’s Creative Director of Calvin Klein
Born on May 10, 1964, Francisco Costa is the Women’s Creative Director of Calvin Klein Collection. He is a two-time winner of the Womenswear Designer of the Year award. His mother owned a children’s wear factory, which he visited often during childhood. That’s where he learned about fabrics and colors and developed a liking for fashion designing. During his career, he got the opportunity of working with the likes of Oscar de la Renta (when working with Seventh Avenue) and Tom Ford (when working with Gucci).
- First internationally successful Brazilian model and among the richest women in entertainment
Born on July 20, 1980 in Horizontina, Gisele was one of the five children of Vânia Nonnenmacher and Valdir Bündchen, both of German decent. At the age of 13, she joined a modeling course. In the following year, she was contesting for Elite Look of the Year, in which she secured the second position. She went to Sao Paulo to pursue a career in modeling. She appeared on covers of magazines like Vogue. She was on a record number of 10 covers in less than four years. Her career peaked in the 2000s. Her 25 million contract with Victoria’s Secret rocketed her to the number one position. She is among world’s top models, the top earning supermodel of 2009-10 and first on Forbes top-earning models list of 2012. After a five-year long relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio, Bundchen started dating Tom Brady, whom she married in 2009. She is involved in philanthropy and is the goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme.
- Guga – The last player to beat Roger Federer in the French Open
Fondly called Guga, this Brazilian sportsman is a former World No. 1 tennis player. He started playing tennis at the young age of six and became Brazil’s second-best player quite early in his career. He has won three French Opens, earning a Grand Slam in each of them. His French Open victories included defeating the then top two players, before becoming the world’s number 1 player in 2000. Guga is the only player to have beaten Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi in the same major tournament. He is the last player to have won against Roger Federer. After retiring in 2008, he has settled in Florianopolis, Brazil, his birthplace. He has been inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2012.
- Architect of Brasilia and a key player in blending traditional architectural forms with international modernism
Born on February 27, 1902, he was an architect known for his plan of Brazil’s new capital Brasilia which was given the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. His major works include the Brazilian Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair of 1939, the Ministry of Education and Health and the very famous plan of Brasilia. He worked as the regional and national chief of the Brazilian Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute where some of his decisions met with controversy. He died in 1998.
Luiz Felipe Scolari
- Manager of Brazil’s National Football Team, known for being aggressive and motivating
We know him as Big Phil, a World Cup-winning football manager from Brazil. Born on November 9, 1948, he started his club career in 1966. He ended his career as a player in 1982 and began working as the manager of CSA (Centro Sportivo Alagoano). Since 1982, he has been working as a manager for various football teams and sports associations. In 1990, he led the Kuwait national team to win the Gulf Cup of Nations. He was the manager of the Brazil team between June 2001 and the end of 2002. After managing the Portugal team for a few years after 2003, he returned to club management in 2008. He has always been a motivating team manager who has ensured that the players are shielded from external pressures and that they are given the best environment to concentrate on their performance on the field. Today, he manages the Brazil National Football Team and winning the 2014 FIFA World Cup is their goal.
- First Brazilian to go to space
Born on March 11, 1963, he is a Brazilian Air Force Pilot who boasts of being the first Brazilian and the first Portuguese-speaking individual to go to space. He has completed the astronaut training program at NASA and is the only Brazilian to have done that. As a child he wanted to be an astronaut. In 1998, the Brazilian Space Agency selected him for NASA’s astronaut training program. He became a Space Shuttle Mission Specialist towards the end of 2000. Today, he is the Lieutenant Colonel with the Brazilian Air Force.
Marcos Evangelista de Moraes
- Cafu – one of world’s most magnificent defenders
We know him as Cafu and he is enlisted in Pele’s FIFA 100. He is the only one to have played three World Cup finals and won two. He was born on June 7, 1970, in Sao Paulo. Since school, he knew he loved football. He started playing for Sao Paulo youth club. His international career began in 1990. Starting as a midfielder, he moved to rightback and is one of the most brilliant defenders of his time.
- Architect of Brasilia and the first Brazilian to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize
Born on December 15, 1907, Oscar Niemeyer is a Brazilian architect of world acclaim. The use of unconventional patterns and a blend of volumes and empty space characterize the buildings of Niemeyer. After graduating as an engineering architect in 1943, he started working in architecture studios. He attained international renown for his plan of the city of Brasilia. He was a part of the group of architects who designed the United Nations Headquarters. At the age of 100, he is still a part of many re-organizational works, and a variety of other projects. In a career spanning 78 years, he has worked on 600 projects. His contribution to the field of sculpting is commendable.
- A legendary basketball player who never played in the NBA
With a 49,737 career points to his credit, Oscar Schmidt (born February 16, 1958) is unofficially considered as the all-time highest scorer in the history of basketball. Also, his career as a basketball player has spanned the longest time. He is among the 50 Greatest Players of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and was inducted to the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2010. He played the shooting guard or small forward positions. The South American Club Championship and the World Cup Championship of 1979 were the highlights of his club career. As a part of his country’s basketball team, he played in five Summer Olympics, a record in itself, and won the top scorer’s title in three of them. He is one of the best basketball players who never played in the NBA.
- Author of the international bestseller ‘The Alchemist’
We all know him as the author of The Alchemist. He is a 1947-born Brazilian writer of international acclaim. He was also a lyricist and musician. As a teenager, he wanted to be a writer. Due to parental pressure, he joined a law school and gave up his dream of pursuing a career in writing. In a year after that, he dropped out and living the life of a hippie, he traveled around the world. He worked as a journalist, director and actor for a brief period before getting back to writing. His pilgrimage on the Way to St. James proved to be life-changing for him. His first attempt at writing failed. The Alchemist published in 1987 garnered wide popularity and earned him a position among the greatest writers of his time. Apart from ‘The Alchemist, ‘Eleven Minutes’, ‘Brida’, ‘Veronica Decides to Die’, and ‘The Zahir’ are some of his most widely read books. Coelho has 30 books in his name, many of which have been adapted into films and TV series.
Pedro I of Brazil
- First ruler of the empire of Brazil, instrumental in establishing a representative form of Government in the country
He was the founder and first ruler of the Empire of Brazil. He is referred to as Dom Pedro I. (Dom is his title derived from Latin Dominus meaning master.) He is known as ‘the Liberator’ and ‘the Soldier King’. He was the son of King Dom Joao VI of Purtugal and Queen Carlota Joaquina. He was coronated as the Emperor of Brazil in 1822. He ruled the empire till 1831. During the reign, he defeated the troops of Portugal and successfully suppressed the Confederation of the Equator. He was succeeded by Pedro II. He died in 1834. He is considered to have played an important role in bringing representative forms of government to Portugal and Brazil.
- Princess Imperial of Brazil, a key player in abolishing slavery from the country
Born on July 29, 1846, in Rio de Janeiro, she was the daughter of Emperor Pedro II of Brazil. After the deaths of her elder brothers, she became the heiress presumptive of the Empire’s throne. On three occasions during her father’s absence, she acted as regent. She is referred to as the ‘Redemptress’ and is held in high regard for her efforts towards abolition of slavery and for signing the Golden Law which allowed complete abolitionism in Brazil.
Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite
- Kaka – the first sportsman to have a Twitter following of 10 million
Born on April 22, 1982, Kaka is among the most popular footballers today. He plays on the attacking midfield position. He started playing football at the age of 8, and at 15 he decided to concentrate on this sport. Starting as a local club player, his international career began in 2001-02. He was the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2007. He is among the most expensive football players and the first sportsman to have 10 million followers on Twitter.
Ronaldo de Assis Moreira
- Ronaldinho – Among the very few footballers who have played at every international age level
Ronaldinho, as he is popularly called, is one of those few Brazilian football players who have played at every international age level. He was born on March 21, 1980 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. He plays for Brazil’s national team for the attacking midfield or forward positions. At the age of 8, he lost his father who was also a footballer. Around the same time, he began playing for youth clubs where he was often the youngest player. That’s where his nickname Ronaldinho came from. Today, he plays for the club Atletico Mineiro and also for the national team of Brazil. He has been awarded the FIFA World Player of the Year, twice.
- Has scored the highest number of goals in Football World Cup
A retired Brazilian football player, Ronaldo is one of the greatest footballers of all time. He was born on September 18, 1976 in Rio de Janeiro, and started his career as a club player in 1993. He is among the only three men who have won the FIFA Player of the Year award thrice and the only player to have won the World Cup Golden Ball and Golden Boot in separate tournaments. In the 98 international matches that he played, he has scored 62 goals. He boasts of being the highest goalscorer in the history of World Cup.
Sergio Vieira de Mello
- Receiver of the United Nations Prize in the field of Human Rights, in 2003
Born on March 15, 1948 in Rio de Janeiro, Sergio Vieira de Mello grew up to become one of the very famous diplomats of Brazil. He joined the United Nations in 1969, while he was studying in Paris. He had a good command over English, Spanish, French, Italian, and also Portuguese. He started as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva and became a senior political advisor in 1981 and 1983. He was considered as one of the most suitable candidates for the position of UN Secretary General. He was given the ‘Statesman of the Year Award’ in 2004, after his death. His death meant the loss of a great political figure of Brazil.
- Considered as the greatest midfielders of all time
The 1983’s South American Footballer of the Year, and on Pele’s FIFA 100 list of 2004, this Brazilian football player is considered as one of the greatest midfielders ever. Socrates was born on February 19, 1954 in Belem, Para, Brazil. His trademark beard and headband made him the ‘symbol of cool’ for football fans of his time. He was a doctor of medicine and had earned the degree during the time he was also playing football at a professional level. His career in football began in 1974. He appeared in the Brazil’s team 60 times between 1979 and 1986 and scored 22 goals. The World Soccer magazine has enlisted him among the 100 best footballers in history. This football genius died on December 4, 2011 in hospital after developing septic shock.
These were still only a few of the famous people from Brazil, who have made their country proud. Their outstanding work, their contribution to society and their accomplishments, in their own way, have changed the world.