(AP) RIO DE JANEIRO - Geisy Arruda is dancing proof that nowhere is transformation more achievable than in Brazil's Carnival, ripe with fantasy and metamorphosis.
The 20-year-old college student from a poor family gained worldwide attention last fall when she was expelled for wearing a miniskirt to class. Three months and four plastic surgeries later, she will parade Monday at the helm of a top-tier Rio de Janeiro samba group's parade float -- her third high-profile spot in this year's three largest Carnival parades.
Arruda said she will parade in a "Carnivalized" version of the pink dress she wore when she was hounded out of class by catcalling students -- a piece of cloth that will show off her newly sculpted body.
"I confess, I'm a vain girl, and the changes I've made have given me the confidence I need to dance in these Carnivals," Arruda told The Associated Press. "The entire world is looking at every part of you. They demand a lot of Brazilian women during Carnival, you have to be perfect, impeccable.
"I'm getting there," she added, "but it is a difficult level to reach."
Arruda was forced to put on a professor's white coat and was escorted from class by police Oct. 22 amid a hail of insults and curses from other students. Videos of the incident went viral on the Internet.
The uproar caused her college to take disciplinary action -- against her, not those who belittled the jovial blonde. She was expelled for what officials called provocative behavior in a country widely known for revealing clothing.
A national outcry ensued, and Arruda was quickly reinstated.
But she never returned, saying initially that she feared for her safety. Instead she went under the wing of a few stylists and hairdressers in Sao Paulo who saw her battle as one against sexism and discrimination in Brazil's macho culture.
Arruda's physical transformation came through liposuction that removed 11 pounds (5 kilograms) of fat from her abdominal region. Part of that fat was then injected into her face to make her cheekbones more prominent, and, this being Brazil, much of the rest was added to her rear to give it more oomph. She also had breast augmentation surgery and countless other non-surgical aesthetic treatments.
All was paid for through donations collected by her hairdresser, Arruda said.
She first danced Saturday in Salvador in Bahia state -- which vies each year with Rio for the wildest Carnival -- atop a massive truck outfitted with giant speakers, wearing a low-cut, tight, white top and short gray skirt.
On Sunday she hit her native Sao Paulo for the city's parades, wearing a large, purple feather headdress and little else.
But her crowning Carnival achievement comes late Monday, when she performs with the Porta da Perda samba group as Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, who faced significant hurdles during her reign as a woman who would not marry. The overall group theme is the history of clothing and what women are submitted to in the pursuit of fashion.
That Arruda is even in the limelight is a testament to the ability to recreate oneself in Brazilian society, some argue. Others counter that she is a reflection of a reality television culture in which any bizarre incident can turn someone into a celebrity.
"I totally agree with her taking complete advantage of this situation to give herself a better life," said 23-year-old Sabrina Bispo, who was getting some sun on Ipanema beach. "She comes from a humble family, and I challenge anyone in a similar situation to say they would not do the same."
But Amanda dos Santos, 27, dismissed Arruda as a flash in the pan and said she does not seriously represent any statement against sexism in Brazil's culture.
"It's far too easy to become a celebrity in Brazil these days," she said, snacking on a sandwich in a Copacabana cafe. "There are other prejudices that Carnival would be better to address, such as that against blacks and handicapped people."
Fernando de Barros e Silva, a columnist for the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, wrote in Monday's edition that there was nothing wrong with the attention being paid to Arruda.
"There still exists, perhaps, the temptation to criticize the fascination of the girl and her disposable fame," he wrote. "But why? She's not more vulgar than the media's appetite for her. She's not more frivolous than celebrity journalism and it's consumers."
All of which, perhaps, is over intellectualizing the situation -- especially given Arruda's happy-go-lucky attitude.
While she says she was disgusted by being driven from school and plans to return as soon as possible, in virtually the same breath she reveals she is enjoying her accidental fame.
At the end of an interview, she paused for a split second, then asked: "Will you be needing any photos for this story? There are old ones of me floating around in the media, and I definitely want you to have more recent photos that show the new me."