I Spoke to the Hurricane Sandy Meme Model
Nov 8 2012
Since Hurricane Sandy swanned on up from the Caribbean, bitched out most of the East Coast and destroyed areas of New York, a series of photographs have surfaced on the internet of a woman posing against the desiccated background of Manhattan's streets. It's quite profound, really; a devastatingly beautiful goddess posed in stark, poignant contrast against Sandy's relatively minor debris—a time-weary juxtaposition, but one that survives because it just makes you think so goddamn much. It's almost definitely first-place material in whatever the amateur photography equivalent of the Turner Prize is.
Turns out the provocative mastermind is Brazilian-born Nana Gouvêa, who is very keen to let everyone who's been offended by the photos know that she is NOT modeling, just someone standing in choreographed poses in front of a camera. Of course, she was quickly made into a meme and implanted into a host of horrible disasters throughout history—Hindenburg, 9/11, the Vietnamese napalm attack; all the biggies—and has now found herself internet famous, despite her protestations that everyone's getting her wrong.
I called her up to let her prove whatever she wanted to prove to me.
VICE: Hi Nana. I just wanted to talk to you a bit about the modeling shoot you did after Hurricane Sandy. Nana Gouvêa: No, it's not a modeling shoot. It was never a modelling shoot—I just took some snapshots with my husband because I was interviewed by someone in Brazil and they wanted photos. It was not a modeling shoot.
Oh, OK. What was the interview about?
The hurricane, of course. The Brazilian magazine Ego called me to interview me about the hurricane and, at the end, they asked me if I could take some pictures to send to them as imagery for the article. I'm not a model, though. I want to make that clear.
What do you do?
I'm an actress. That's my one profession. Period. I'm not a model. I was in Playboy once, but all the most beautiful and famous actresses do Playboy—that doesn't mean we're models.
Surely that means you've been a paid model, though? Even if it was only for a couple of hours, or whatever.
No, I don’t agree with you.
Fair enough. Your poses are quite model-y. They look good.
That's just how I am. There’s no posing. I'm like that every single day of my life. I was being the most natural, yet serious, as I possibly could be. You don't see me smiling or making jokes, do you? I was serious.
So the photos were intended to reflect how serious the disaster was?
Yes. I wasn't showing my legs, I wasn't showing my arms or my breasts. Was I wearing a sexy outfit? No. I didn’t have make-up on and my hair wasn't done up, or anything. It was just normal, not a photo-shoot. What a ridiculous idea.
In one photo, have you actually climbed into the tree?
Yes, I was trying to show the devastation.
Right. Have you had any bad reactions over the photos since they came out?
Yeah, because you guys in the media are saying it was a photo-shoot. This simply isn't true and I'm very, very offended. So many people were taking pictures of the devastation, so why do people say that I was trying to get some kind of advantage out of this?
It's because you put the sex appeal on me. That’s down to you. It's the media who think I’m sexy, so they're putting that on me.
Do you think the main problem is just that you’re sexier than all the ugly people who've been in other photos?
Unfortunately, yes. People look at me and they see a beautiful woman. This isn't the first time this has happened to me, either. It's very bad and so unfair. I really hope that people stop having these preconceptions of me. Just because I'm beautiful and have loads of sex appeal, it doesn't mean that I'm a bad person. It's not my fault that you see the pictures and you think I'm beautiful or sexy.
Yeah, I suppose we're the ones to blame here. Have you seen the memes based on your photos?
Do you think they're funny?
No, some of them aren't funny at all. I don't like the ones where I've been put into disasters.
All of them, then. Did you make the memes?
I don’t even know how to use Photoshop, so no, I haven't made any of the memes. I'm the joke. It's insane.
Follow Rebecca on Twitter: @RebeccaCFitz
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