Luana Muniz (b. 1958), lovingly nicknamed “Queen of Lapa”, left home was at the tender age of nine and soon began prostituting herself on the dangerous streets of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Inspired and mentored by the transgender community of the time, Luana quickly learned the rules of the street and survived a difficult period for the LGBTQ community in Brazil. Under the brutal dictatorship of the time, in addition to prostitution being illegal, it was also criminal for men to wear makeup or dress in woman’s clothing. Under those conditions it was common for transgender people to be murdered, harassed, humiliated and tortured.
When Muniz was in her 20’s and 30’s, she went on extended European business trips where she continued life as a prostitute and fell in love with the artistry, lifestyle and drug scene of the LBGTQ nightclub scene. Muniz eventually returned to Brazil for good homeless where she sought refuge with friends, building herself up again, getting clean which lead to volunteering, lobbying and fighting for human rights on behalf of LGBTQ community, all while still working as a sex professional. Muniz became the Founder and President of The Association of Transgender Sex Professionals and established a safe hostel for transgender sex workers, in the neighborhood of Lapa, where she mentored, supported, provided medical and mental health services and a safe space to live and work for over two decades.
As one, if not the most recognizable transgender women in Rio, Muniz, was often featured on Brazilian news programs, soap operas, stage and film. Using her celebrity status as a platform, she shined a spotlight on the social issues of the transgender community and became a towering figure in the fight for human rights for sex professionals and the LGBTQ community at large.
Luana Muniz left a legacy of order and dignity in the LGBTQ community and is revered as one of the most influential transgender Brazilian’s in history.