Who could not be familiar with the world’s most famous bossa nova song, Girl From Ipanema? The song was written in 1962 by Brazilians songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim and poet Vinicius de Moraes as they were sitting in the Veloso, a cabana on the famous beach in Rio, watching a young siren walk to the sea.
The “tall and tan and young and lovely” girl was 16-year-old Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto, a model from Rio De Janiero. Helô, as she was called, was already well-known and it wasn’t just once that the composers studied her movements. She had been the object of their attention many times as she walked to school, work, or to the store.
The first version of the song was performed in 1963 by Pery Rieiro, but it was the version on a 1964 album by Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto and sung by Gilberto’s wife at the time, Astrud Gilberto, that made it a hit. Joao, one of the principal architects of the Brazilian bossa nova or “new trend” musical style, just passed away last week at the age of 88.
Helô married an engineer named Fernando Pinheiro in 1968. Through those years, Helô did some acting and modeling and posed for Playboy magazine in 1987. She never received the monetary gains from the international hit that she would have in the later years of the music production industry, and when her husband lost his job, she became the primary breadwinner.
She and Fernando had a son who suffered brain damage as an infant, putting a severe financial strain on their family. Borrowing $50,000, Helô started a beachwear boutique in Sao Paulo in 2001.
Oddly enough, Helô ended-up being sued by the families of the writers for using the title of the song she inspired. She told the New York Times; “This store is the means I have to guarantee the sustenance of my family.” In a press release by Jobim and Moraes many years prior (both were deceased by this time), they had named Pinheiro as the real Girl from Ipanema (Garota de Ipanema). This was used as evidence that the original composers themselves had intended to bestow this title upon her and the court ruled in favor of Pinheiro.
In October of 2012, Helô published her autobiography A Eterna Garota de Ipanema.
Pinheiro returned to her former hangout to be a torchbearer who helped carry the flame for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio.
She and Fernando are still married.
Even at the age of 74, Helô can still evoke an “Aaaaah!”