Luana Muniz is a 59-year-old transsexual sex worker and madam who runs a house for younger trans sex workers in Rio de Janeiro, where she acts as a protector, mentor and matriarch. Lovingly nicknamed Queen of Lapa, Luana tries to hold the house together with gentle but intimidating philosophical intimacy while enforcing her rules amongst the chaos of the girl’s everyday lives.
My name is Carolina Monnerat and I am a native of Rio de Janeiro Brazil, now living in New York with my husband and co-director Theodore Collatos.
I grew up in the neighborhood of Gloria, which is adjacent to Lapa, in Rio de Janeiro.
This is my directorial debut and the project is very personal to me.
I have heard about Luana Muniz and her safe home for trans-sex workers living and working in Lapa ever since I was a child. My father, in fact, was a neighborhood negotiator at one point in the early 1990's between the sex-workers and our neighborhood leaders. The sex workers, work on a street that joins Gloria and Lapa and the residents of Gloria were growing concerned about the activity. Needless to say, my father made all parties happy in the end and this lead to a greater understanding and harmony between the neighborhood and the sex workers.
My grand mother is a famous civil rights and revolutionary in Brazil and I feel this project is my way of continuing her, and my fathers legacy of human dignity.
Our observational style shows how the girls live, love and exist day to day, without judgment or agenda. The story unfolds naturally with out contriving or suggesting and shows them how they really are, people who have found family with each other.
Luana is an internationally known sex worker famous for fighting for her personal fight for human rights in Brazil. She granted us unprecedented access to her home where there are simple but strict rules: no drugs, safe sex and respect for the home. In addition to providing a safe place to live and work Luana also helps the girls with doctor visits, job training and acts as a life mentor.
Luana, who has been a sex worker since the age of 9, and her family, have fought back with knives and batons when necessary, with their own rules and rituals which may inspire us to question the systems that have for centuries exploited and justified this marginalization and celebrate the resilience and dignity of this community. Make no mistake, Luana is a proud sex worker and only wants the dignity and respect that's due.
In 2002 she created, an association to demand improvements in the lives of transgendered called: Agenttles - Association of Sex Professionals of the Genus Transgender of Rio de Janeiro.
"The time of the knife has passed. Now we must fight by talking about our problems, meet with our leaders to ensure our rights," she said, adding that she bought a safe house where her association welcomed transgendered who were evicted from their homes by family and who worked in the profession of sex. In addition to giving them a place to stay she also educated them on other skills for the more traditional labor market called "Project Trans."
Luana granted us exclusive access to her closed group that has never been seen in this light before. She and the rest of the girls trusted us because they knew we were not intending to create a message for the film or tell anyone what to think about them, but rather baring witness to their stories.
"I've seen a lot of bad things and a lot of good. I prefer to speak of good things. I am not a pessimist nor am I an optimistic dreamer. I am a realist, I'm aware. I visited places of kings and queens and have also witnessed many deaths. Only education will save us. We will fight for education, because only then will there be culture, politics and health." said the Queen.