Brazilian portrays Taiwan ‘betel nut beauties’ in new comic book

TAIPEI (The China Post) — Hailing from Salvador, Brazil, 30-year-old Lucas Paixão published a comic book last month, centering on a Taiwanese “betel nut beauty.”

In an interview with NOWnews and The China Post, he acknowledged that the process was quite grueling as he understood being a “betel nut beauty” was a bit of a controversial career choice here.

However, he believes that society has changed greatly in the past few years and thinks that it’s time for people’s values and thoughts towards certain things to catch up. 

Paixão also believes that one shouldn’t discriminate against certain types of occupation based on personal views. Born in 1990, Paixao loves Japanese comic books; he has wanted to be a comic-book artist since childhood.

With the development of the Internet, Paixão began searching online for Japanese cartoons’ theme songs and accidentally downloaded a music video of Taiwanese girl pop group, S.H.E.

Lucas’ knew of betel nut beauties after viewing “Help Me Eros”. (Screengrab from NOWnews video)

From there Paixão started to learn Chinese from these songs and other Taiwanese TV shows. In 2014, he started pursuing a master’s degree at the Taipei National University of Arts. 

Yet, he realized that some people did not deem “comic-book drawings” as art or categorized it as part of a “lower-class” art form. Determined to change their minds, Paixao decided to use bodies as canvases and portrayed his artwork through his models.

To Paixão, everybody is a different canvas and people have different reactions to bodies; therefore, giving the stories being told many unique interpretations.

The first time Paixao heard of “betel nut beauties” was when watching the Taiwanese movie, “Help Me Eros.” In the film, the main character sold betel nuts in a glass store, and Paixao initially thought the storyline was merely fiction, and not based on a real occupation.

When he arrived in Taiwan, he was shocked to find that there were actual “betel nut beauties”. 

The heroine of Lucas’ comic book is a betel nut beauty in Taiwan. (Screengrab from NOWnews video)

A contemporary of Paixao has been quoted describing his creations and depictions of betel nut beauties as vibrant characters that succeed in enticing feelings of happiness, sadness, curiosity and confusion from his readers.

Although his stories are most uplifting, Paixao’s life has not been without its challenges. As a person of color coming from a single-parent household, he has faced his fair share of discriminatory acts and gazes.

This led him to appreciate Taiwan even more and deem it as a peaceful and harmonious nation. To him, Taiwan is accepting and tolerant, which enables him to create art freely, without restriction.

Here, Paixão holds the conviction that though the road may be tough, as long as one holds out, dreams do come true.