A street sweeper is considering swapping jobs to become a model after gaining thousands of fans and becoming an internet sensation.
Rita Mattos was swamped with offers of dates and declarations of love after photos of her cleaning the streets of Rio de Janeiro began circulating on WhatsApp.
As her fame grew, the 23-year-old, dubbed ‘Sweeper Babe’, originally slammed the attention she was receiving – accusing her new followers of discriminating against her less beautiful colleagues.
She told Brazil’s Extra newspaper: “People are surprised when they see a pretty girl working as a street cleaner. They say that I could find a better job than sweeping and weeding.
“But why should street cleaners, necessarily, be ugly? There is a prejudice against them.
“I’m very proud of what I do. Apart from working very hard, I have a lot of fun too.”
But after realising the attention was not a joke, Rita, who earns £400-a-month, revealed she now hopes her newfound fame could lead to a better job.
She said: “At first I thought it was all a joke in bad taste, that people were criticising me. But later I saw that the comments were positive, praising my beauty.
“So I’m now taking it well, and hoping that all this exposure will bring me a good opportunity to find modelling work.
“A lot of friends have congratulated me and told me I deserve this recognition. I’ve always dreamed of being a model, but I also don’t want to build up my hopes.”
Rita, who already has an agent, said she is open to any modelling jobs, even posing nude. “I’m here for any opportunities that might arise, it will depend on the offer,” she said.
But she insists that she won’t give up her day job, which she says helps keep her in shape.
She said: “It’s hard, physical work, good for a firm body. I also go to the gym every day after I clock off. I’m not the type of person who diets or doesn’t eat what they want to.
“I have to take care of my body for the beach. Looking good on the beach is everything. Lying in a bikini in the sun is all good for me.”
She added: “I’m very independent, I’ve been working since I was 16. I’ve always liked to conquer my own things. I hope that will accomplish all my dreams.”
Rita, who began her job in March last year, wakes up at 4.20am every morning and works shifts of up to 12 hours, cleaning streets and unblocking drains in the western Realengo district of the South American beach city.
She said she was used to hearing wolf whistles and comments from men as she worked, wearing Rio’s street cleaners’ recognisable orange uniform, but she never expected that her job would ever make her a national sex symbol.
Originally she hit out as hundreds of people tried to become friends with her on social networks.
She said: “It seems like people have never seen a bum, legs and breasts before. I’m a normal person like anyone else. I’m not famous, I’m just a street cleaner. So please stop following me.”
But she now says she wants to take advantage of the publicity and try her luck as a model.