SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) – Just two months ago, Raquel Pacheco was making a living as a high-end call girl, turning tricks with up to five men a day in an apartment in a swank neighborhood of Sao Paulo, Latin America’s financial hub.
Back then she went by her nom de guerre, Bruna Surfistinha, or Bruna the Surfer Girl. She has since left the business and become a best-selling author who spends her days rushing to interviews, promoting her book on the radio and appearing on late-night TV talk shows.
Her book, “The Sweet Venom of the Scorpion: The Diary of a Call Girl,” is a vivid account of the three years that the 21-year-old Pacheco spent selling her body for money. Written in the slang of a middle-class teen-ager from Sao Paulo, it is part diary, part blog and even offers how-to tips for readers looking to spice up their sex lives.
In just over a month, it has sold some 30,000 copies and is already in its third edition – a huge success in a country where only a fraction of the population reads books.
It also ranks third on Brazil’s bestseller list for nonfiction books, neck and neck with international hits like “Freakonomics” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.
Though Brazil is the world’s largest Roman Catholic country, sex is far from a taboo subject.
Brazilians of all social classes frequently flaunt their sexuality, donning skimpy clothing even in formal settings. X-rated magazines hang in plain sight at newsstands.
The government distributes free condoms as part of its AIDS prevention program. And prostitution is legal, although pimping is not.
Still, the book’s success was a surprise to Pacheco, who turned to prostitution after running away from home when she was 17 and now lives with her boyfriend, a former customer.
“I thought people would be curious, not necessarily about my life, but about the life of a call girl,” she said.
“But I didn’t think the reaction would be like this. I never thought I would be famous.”
From blog to book
In truth, Pacheco was already flirting with fame before her book. Lonely and eager to vent, she started writing about her experiences with customers in a blog that became so popular it was profiled in several Brazilian magazines.
These days the site (http://www.brunasurfistinha.com/blogs/) rarely focuses on sexual escapades, but it still gets about 20,000 hits a day.
It was the blog that drew publishers to Pacheco, who had boasted on the site that she was writing a book. She rejected three offers to put her story in print before finally signing with a small publishing house called Panda Books, which hired a journalist to help her organize her ideas into a book.
“Once I started reading the blog, I was hooked,” said Marcelo Duarte, the book’s publisher.
“It had all the ingredients of a good soap opera - family drama, love stories and lots of sex.”
Duarte thought it would be popular with men, but he did not imagine that the story of a prostitute would be such a big hit with women, who have been buying the book in droves.
Still, Rosely Sayao, a psychologist who studies sexual behavior, said the book’s popularity among women makes sense.
“The idea of a call girl, of a prostitute, is something that many women fantasize about,” she said. “Women want to be a lover to their partner, and in many people’s minds, a prostitute is someone who knows how to be the perfect lover.”
The book has also raised eyebrows overseas. Duarte is in talks to publish it in Portugal and Spain, and is entertaining offers to sell the rights to turn it into a movie.
That possibility prompted one Brazilian web site to ask its readers in a survey who should play Pacheco on the big screen. The top pick was soap opera star Mel Lisboa, who became famous playing a teen-age vixen who seduced an older man.
With money in the bank and a bestseller on her resume, Pacheco says she plans to finish high school and go to college to study psychology.
She also wants to find a job but worries she will have a hard time getting hired because of her past.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be accepted,” she said. “Even though I’m not a prostitute anymore, in some people’s eyes I still am.”