Perfect tans, less COVID cares on Rio de Janeiro rooftop

Brazil Rio Suntan
People seeking crisp tan lines sunbathe in bikinis fashioned from electrical tape at the Sabrina Bronze rooftop salon in the Turano favela of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. Even though beaches reopened amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some clients using Sabrina's rooftop service say they are still anxious about returning to the crowded seashore and potentially catching the virus. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Brazil Rio Suntan
Ana Paula Santos sunbathes in a bikini top fashioned from electrical tape at the Sabrina Bronze rooftop salon which offers crisp tan lines in the Turano favela of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. Santos said she uses the rooftop partially because she prefers its privacy compared to the public beach. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Brazil Rio Suntan
Sabrina Crespo da Silva shows electrical tape she uses on clients to create crisp tan lines at her Sabrina Bronze rooftop salon in the Turano favela of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. Even though beaches reopened amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some clients using Sabrina's rooftop service say they are still anxious about returning to the crowded seashore and potentially catching the virus. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Brazil Rio Suntan
Sabrina Crespo da Silva removes electrical tape from a client at her Sabrina Bronze rooftop salon, where she offers the service of taping on bikini tops which create crisp tan lines, in the Turano favela of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. Even though beaches reopened amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some clients using Sabrina's rooftop service say they are still anxious about returning to the crowded seashore and potentially catching the virus. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Brazil Rio Suntan
Ana Paula Santos cools off in a shower after sunbathing in a bikini fashioned from electrical tape at the Sabrina Bronze rooftop salon in the Turano favela of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. Santos said she uses the rooftop because she prefers its privacy compared to the public beach. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — When the pandemic hit Rio de Janeiro, Sabrina Crespo da Silva and her girlfriends were forced to live — for the first time — without the beach. But they couldn’t bear losing their tans, so they started lying out on her rooftop.

Then, even when city beaches reopened, they were anxious about returning to the crowded shore as the coronavirus continued to infect Brazilians.

Plus, at the beach, they couldn't get the perfectly defined tan lines that have become a Rio trademark — which more and more often are obtained not with bikinis, but electrical tape.

Da Silva sensed an opportunity.

“Everyone wants that little mark!” she told The Associated Press after applying tape to the private parts of clients on her rooftop, which she turned into a tanning salon 11 months ago. They come from within her Turano favela and other neighborhoods.

“During the pandemic, rooftop salons became very popular,” she said.

Offering samba music, fresh-squeezed juices and views of the legendary Maracana soccer stadium, da Silva's fledgling business provides an alternative to those fearing COVID-19 or wanting to avoid the seaside hordes.

In an improvised changing room, she covers women's naked tops and bottoms with pieces of gauze, then fits tape on top as symmetrically as possible. Its removal — facilitated by sweat in temperatures often topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit — reveals the coveted crisp lines that a looser cloth bikini can’t create.

On Thursday, 10 women and two men soaked up summer rays. They sat on folding chairs and had personal space to spare — a contrast with beaches that, even on some weekdays, can be swarming with so many bodies that passing through means close contact.

Rio's virus caseload has been surging and, although the omicron wave isn’t causing the same degree of severe illness as last year, the mayor postponed the world-famous Carnival parade by two months, to April.

Many seem little concerned, and beaches, bars and restaurants are packed. But others worry.

“Now with the pandemic, it's like this," 16-year-old Raiane Santos said while lounging on da Silva's roof. She lives in the Botafogo neighborhood, which is far nearer to Rio's white-sand beaches than the Turano favela. "The beach is getting very crowded. I like the beach, but not with all those crowds.”

Tanning with electrical tape was popularized by local starlet Anitta's 2017 music video, and has become increasingly common in cities along Brazil's long coastline. The black tape in Anitta's video remains clients' favorite, da Silva said, but they can choose from a range of colors and patterns.

Ana Paula dos Santos, 31, selected pink, leopard-spotted tape. A bikini “doesn’t leave that mark that you want to draw attention,” said dos Santos, who lives in a nearby favela. “This comes from the (favela), but today everyone wants it.”

Da Silva's salon, named “Sabrina Bronze,” gets busiest on weekends, and she limits the number of clients to 20 at a time. Many appreciate it.

“I wanted to get sun, but not go to the beach, because of the pandemic," said Rita Silene, 52. “I came here for the first time two months ago. Since then, I haven't stopped.”

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