The career of Rafaela Cocal, the 19-year-old actress, began in a theatre course, where she aimed to improve her performance on the catwalk. Now, she has found prominence playing Yandara Guató in ‘Terra e Paixão’, a Rede Globo production. Her indigenous roots are an essential part of her journey, evidenced by her surname “Cocal”, a tribute to the Wassu Cocal people of her hometown in Maceió. The connection with her ancestry, which comes from her mother, is also a marked influence in her life and career.
At just 18 years old, Rafaela Cocal travelled alone to São Paulo, determined to solidify her artistic career. This move exposed her to a totally different reality from her life in Alagoas. The transition to the hustle and bustle of the big city was challenging, but enriching at the same time. Her experiences in São Paulo have been a mixture of learning and growth, helping her to reach the heights of her artistic career.
Rafaela Cocal shares her inspirations in the industry, highlighting figures such as Bruna Marquezine and Dira Paes, artists who have fascinated her since childhood and who are now colleagues. Her dreams encompass a range of projects, from series to Hollywood films, using her art to convey meaningful messages. For Rafaela, the rise of indigenous peoples in various fields, including art, represents a vital and necessary change, challenging stereotypes and showing the diversity and richness of indigenous culture.
How did your experience in theatre courses to improve your catwalk performance contribute to your career in acting?
When I moved to São Paulo, I started studying at the Macunaíma Theatre School in order to learn more about the art of acting, as well as to improve my performance as a model, but right from the start I realised that it was something I could really do with more dedication and study. Soon afterwards I took courses in acting techniques and I discovered myself more and more, falling in love with the art of acting.
Changing your surname to Cocal was a way of honouring your indigenous roots. Can you tell us more about this decision and the importance of this connection with your ancestry?
Changing my surname to Cocal was a symbolic way of celebrating culture. I was able to embrace my indigenous heritage and reconnect with the traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation in my family.
Living in São Paulo was a challenging transition. How has this change influenced your artistic approach and your outlook on life?
The fast pace of the city taught me to live and see life differently. Here I’ve had new experiences that have made me grow a lot professionally. It was necessary to leave the calm and peaceful place where I lived in order to embrace opportunities and gain a foothold in the labour market.
In the soap opera “Terra e Paixão”, you play the character Yandara Guató. How did you prepare for this role and what elements of the character do you most identify with?
I always like to say that although my story and Yandara’s are similar in some ways, they’re not the same. We’re different people, but I think Yandara and her family’s relationship is the most similar to mine. I listen a lot to my parents, and listening isn’t as simple as it sounds, but Yandara and I know how to listen.
You’ve mentioned that you want to follow in the footsteps of great artists like Bruna Marquezine and Dira Paes. What specific aspects of their careers inspire you the most?
Courage and perseverance. They are two strong women who have embraced great opportunities throughout their lives.
How is indigenous representation evolving in the Brazilian entertainment industry, and what role do you believe you play in this progress?
Access to information plays a very important role in spreading the story of indigenous culture. Indigenous representation in the entertainment industry helps to increase the visibility of indigenous issues and raise public awareness of the culture, traditions and challenges faced by communities.
Can you share with us some of your professional and personal dreams for the future in art and entertainment?
I’m all about living and feeling the processes I go through. Today I’m living the teledramaturgy process and I’m doing it with all my desire, dedication and admiration. So today, acting draws my attention much more, because I’m immersed in it, and next year it may remain the same or not. We are human beings and we are constantly changing and evolving.
How important is art in your life? How does art influence the way you see the world and express yourself?
For me, art is one of the most beautiful ways of communicating. It’s a way of making people use their imagination and reflect on what is being communicated. Art provokes and invites people to have a critical sense of life.
You’ve mentioned that “art is your life”. How do you balance this dedication to art with your personal life and what advice would you give to young people aspiring to a career in the arts?
I live and breathe it, so I dedicate all my time to my work. It’s a job like any other, which requires dedication and a lot of responsibility. For young people who dream of pursuing this career, live it intensely and never give up on what you want. It may take a while, but one day the opportunity will find you.
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