Celebrating Women in Esports Part 3: Driving Brazil’s Industry Forward

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Living in a country shaken by recent news that exposed the sexism that is still present not only in esports but also in the whole society, Brazilian women rise above the challenges to develop the competitive esports scene and become role models that inspire thousands of esports fans. The Esports Observer talked to seven of these women, each of whom occupy different positions in the scene, to learn their stories, hear their lessons, and highlight their roles in the industry.

Despite being only 23-years-old, Nicolle “Cherrygumms” Merhy is a symbol of empowerment and entrepreneurship. She is a co-owner and CEO of Black Dragons, one of the most traditional esports organizations in Brazil, and also serves as a consultant on esports   for some of the biggest companies and non-endemic brands in the country. Early in her career Merhy was a Rainbow Six: Siege player and grew her way up in the esports scene, founding her own organization and reaching the Forbes Under 30 list in 2019. 

Merhy has a natural passion for competitive games, which made her exponential growth in esports almost organic. She started at the amateur Quake scene, where she met her current associates at Black Dragons, and began working to develop the space, providing resources to other players who wanted to be in a competitive environment. Today, Merhy is also the ambassador of Ubisoft, Corsair, Acer, and Fusion in Brazil.

“The main thing is that what goes around comes around. Be always the most professional you can be, because, as much as you feel emotions, you also deal with the emotions of the public. Do your best and you will be doing it for yourself and for the others,” she says.  

Black Dragons is also the current home of the 26-years-old Lara “’goddess”’ Baceiredo, a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) pro player, who also since childhood loved videogames and was a frequent presence in the popular Brazilian LAN Houses in the 2000s, which are the birthplace of the competitive scene in the country. She did not have suitable equipment to play CS:GO until 2017 and was not expecting to become a pro player until her fourth year in college when, due to her performance in Gamers Club tournaments (a gaming platform owned by Immortals Gaming Club), she received an invitation to play professionally for Santos e-Sports

After this, she took a leave of absence from college.  Since then, Baceiredo dived into the pro player life, having played for one year in Santos, then in Vivo Keyd, FURIA, and Black Dragons. She sees herself continuing her career as a pro player for at least a year and a half and playing as much as she can, and then have some experience living abroad before continuing working in the games industry. “Focus on yourself and take decisions that benefit you,” she says.

Marina Leite, CEO at Vorax, is originally a lawyer and was chosen by the original organization founder ProGaming, a Brazilian computer store, to be in charge of part of its esports branch. The organization grew in popularity and got rebranded before it merged with Falkol Esports to become Vorax, which is led by Leite and has the mantra of respecting diversity. 

Early in her work with ProGaming, Leite had times when she was more involved and less involved in the processes of the organization, as when her second son was born. Then, at a certain point in 2019,  when she decided to drop her law career dedicate herself fully to the management of the team.

“We deal with numbers, statistics, but the most important is that we deal with people,” Leite says. “We will never regret investing in a person. People who are by our side, sharing the same objectives and ideas. They are our main assets, and I do not say it in a ‘property’ meaning, I say it because they are what really matters in our team.”

Barbara Gutierrez, esports journalist, is one of the most important figures in Brazilian esports journalism, having worked in the main specialized media vehicles in the country such as Omelete, UOL, and was editor-in-chief of news portal IGN and its esports branch Versus (currently MGG). Gutierrez covered some of the main gaming and esports events in the world like the E3 and worked in Brazilian broadcast TV as a presenter for a show on the Loading channel.

Gutierrez grew up with videogames as part of her life, mainly due to her father, who owned an arcade back in the 90s. She also attended LAN houses as a teenager when her passion for the competitive world began thanks to Dota. Her willingness to play was the perfect match to her willingness to write, and so Gutierrez started contributing with different websites in Brazil. She later founded a specialized Dota 2 blog and starting to get invited to events where she expanded her contacts, expediting her entrance into Brazilian esports.  

“[To work with games] there is not a secret formula, each person has a completely different journey,” she says. “I used to tell people who worked with me to finish their college courses, and insist with them that they should go to classes instead of working longer hours. It’s because I didn’t finish mine, and I don’t think that anyone should quit college to dedicate to working with games. Every person has their space, manner, and mainly their pace of doing things, and there is not a ‘success formula.’Each person has to look after themselves.” 

Gutierrez also shares her experience regarding being a woman in the esports business, saying that “the main lesson I got from this market is related to us who are women. We get a lot of hate from the community, and after suffering a lot, really suffering a lot, overcoming undesired pics, hateful messages, threats, mean comments underestimating our knowledge, I finally understood what is up with these people: they do this because they feel bad and wanted to be in our spot. Those are people who do not accept that a woman can be there in a highlighted position in the gaming and esports market.”

Marianna “Mari” Motta Muniz, CEO of INTZ A2E, is one of the main names in college esports in Brazil. She is responsible for A2E, the athletic association of the Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF, a university in Rio de Janeiro) which represents INTZ, one of the main Brazilian organizations, in the college circuits. Muniz also works as a Social Media Manager at B4 eSports and LnK Gaming, a joint company by producer DC Set Group and communications giant Globo.

Muniz is 21 years old and started her path in esports when she attended the 2014 Brazilian League of Legends Championship (CBLOL) finals in Rio de Janeiro when she was 15. She fell in love with the scene and, years later, when she got into UFF, she discovered the college esports environment, being was elected president of A2E and, since December 2019, she has been the Marketing Strategist at the Brazilian University Esports Championship.

“When you’re starting, you don’t get much support, because many do not know the scene yet,” she said. “Sometimes you have to be strong and find support in yourself. Many times I was asked if I ‘was going to college to play videogames.’ Also, study a lot, because esports are gaining in professionalism day after day, so you have to keep updated. It’s not like you will be a good professional only by loving esports.” 

Thuane Paiva is a talent manager at Bad Boy Leeroy (BBL), an esports promotion company in São Paulo, Brazil. She originally worked at Brazilian cinema, TV, and other audiovisual productions, as a casting agent, until one of her clients, Matheus Ueta, gave up on focusing on his artistic career to become a professional CS:GO player. 

Paiva then started to attend esports events as Ueta’s career manager until he was hired by the academy team of Vivo Keyd. In this process, she broke her preconceptions with the gaming and esports worlds, definitely embracing a career in the scene in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the Brazilian esports forward, by accepting an invitation to work with talent at BBL.

“There is a big preconception that even I carried, thinking that esports were not worth paying attention to. But no, there is a massive structure behind it, involving all the organizations, the companies, etc. It is surreal the size of what it moves. I had no idea. It is not only a lesson for esports but for life: ignorance generates preconceptions.”

Branca Galdino is one of the top-of-mind names in the esports business in Brazil, having been involved with media and press relations with some of the best-known figures in the country such as the CS:GO superstars Gabriel “Fallen” Toledo, Marcelo “Coldzera” David, and also organizations such as LOUD. Today she is the owner of N9NE, one of the main esports PR agencies in the country, with clients that include  Free Fire’s Bruno “Nobru” Goes. 

Galdino did not start her career at esports nor even in PR. She was a consolidated Media Manager who worked for Microsoft and marketing agency Cheil when started covering esports on weekends. The tables turned   when she met and helped Fallen deal with the press at an event, and then landed jobs at ESL, MIBR, Vivo Keyd, Team oNe, some of the most prominent brands involved in esports.

“Esports are growing thanks to the professionalism that is being applied to them,” Galdino says, adding that “connection is everything” in this business: “Inside esports, if you do not have the contacts and cultivate them, you won’t just land something on the first try, because people in this business create connections, exchange ideas, experiences, and build foundations for the relationships to develop.”

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