In order to raise money for her budding women’s empowerment nonprofit Dona de Si, Brazilian actress Suzana Pires had to get creative. Her solution? Selling her entire designer bag collection.
“In Brazil, we don’t have these [fundraising] methods [like in America],” Pires explains. “So I looked at my closet and I saw my Chanel bag collection.” She sold 12 Chanel handbags until she raised enough money to start Dona de Si. Her first order of business was to hire a team to bring her vision to life, by women for women.
More from The Hollywood Reporter
Prior to joining the nonprofit space, Pires cultivated a long-standing career as one of the most established actresses in Brazil, with credits from films like Loucas pra Casar (Crazy to Get Married) and Elite Squad, as well as leading roles in TV shows such as Destiny River. Next, she’s set to appear in Brazilian Disney+ series Aruna’s Magic.
Now, the actress-writer adds published author to her list of accomplishments, after recently releasing her book Unleashed, a guide for women around the world to awaken their inner power and take control of their own destinies. In unleashing her own power, Pires wants to inspire others to do the same. The book’s foreword, written by actress Sharon Stone, touches on how the pandemic forced people, and women especially, to look inward and reflect on the legacy they want to leave on the world.
Pires made history in Brazil when she became the first actress to also serve as showrunner at TV Globo, one of Brazil’s largest TV networks. “I was 40 [then],” Pires says of the milestone at Globo. “When I reached that point and [was] doing my own movie, [having] artistic independence, I looked at my environment, and I didn’t have another woman there.”
She continues, “When you are a woman and you are in a position [of power, you are tested] all the time. I was feeling that.” Next, Pires went on to work as a contributing writer and columnist at Marie Claire Brazil, Vogue Brazil and Forbes Brazil, where she looked for ways to empower more women in the industry. “My readers were sending me emails,” she remembers. “Women were complaining about exhaustion. ‘I’m happy with my job, but I’m tired, I’m exhausted.’ At that point, I was like, Dona de Si is not only a brand. I think it can be more. There’s an issue here that we’re not touching on yet.”
As Dona de Si continues to grow, the natural next step for Pires was to supplement her nonprofit work with a book that encapsulates everything she’s working toward. In her time as an actress and writer, she noticed three major issues plaguing several women, due to a lack of opportunity, resources and education in Brazil, all of which she addresses in Unleashed. First, Pires notes the work overload that women experience from all aspects of life: “We are always working for others — in our companies, in our families, everywhere. We forget that we, [as individuals], exist.” Second, there’s the oppression from patriarchal society: “They can be subtle things, all the way to abuse. It’s a look. It’s a hand on your back. It’s a hug from someone at work.” And finally, Pires emphasizes the loneliness that manifests in women as a result of carrying these societal weights. “It’s a cultural problem that we have everywhere,” she says.
In Portuguese, Dona de Si translates to Her Own Woman, an organization that provides support and community to women in Brazil, in addition to creating its own original content for film and TV, with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of female leaders in all sectors of the Brazilian economy.
Inspired by her own mother who went back to school to receive her college degree at 43, Pires is working to defy the patriarchal standards of modern society. “She showed me that age cannot stop you,” Pires says about her mother. “So that’s why I’m here pretty much. This [move] to Hollywood, to start to work here [at my age], it’s because I don’t believe in this kind of boundary.”
As for the advice she’d give to women around the world, Pires implores them to “be honest” with themselves throughout their self-discovery journeys. “You’re gonna cry, you’re gonna face a lot of demons, you’re gonna face a lot of beautiful things inside of you,” she says.
Best of The Hollywood Reporter