“The Girl from Ipanema” is the most popular Brazilian song in the world. When it was released in 1963, it turned the world onto bossa nova (new beat) and swept past The Beatles “I Want to Hold Your Hand, selling over two million copies. Aside from being a great song, part of the reason it succeeded is because a young Astrud Gilberto was in the studio and was the only one who could speak passable English, so João and Jobim decided to let her sing the English verse.
But the story gets even more interesting. Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes enjoyed having beers at the Veloso Bar next to Ipanema Beach. Following the success of the 1959 film, Black Orpheus, Vinicius was hatching another film idea: the movie, Blimp, would be about a Martian who lands in Rio during Carnaval. And the little green men would encounter a lovely eighteen-year-old carioca Heloisa Eneida Menezes Pais Pinto, who walked by every day, walking bikini-clad to the beach or returning from school. Vinicius said her way of walking was pure poetry. The Martians would have agreed too.
Blimp never got made but “The Girl from Ipanema” went double-platinum. The real girl from Ipanema became almost as famous in Brazil as soccer hero Pelé. She posed nude for playboy in 1987, and again posed nude with her daughter Ticiane). In 2001, Helôísa Pinheiro (her married name) had opened up a clothing store in a Rio shopping center and promptly got sued by the Jobim’s heirs (he died in 1994; Vinicius in 1980). She finally won the ugly court battle, but never earned a cent from being the muse of Brazil’s most famous song.
And by the way, will somebody please get Blimp made into a movie?
Helô Pinheiro, also known as “The Girl from Ipanema”—then and now.