05/20/2011 12:45 pm ET Updated Jul 20, 2011

Brazil's Upwardly Mobile: Pedicures Lead Woman From Rio Slum To Home Ownership

A paper cap corralling her long, curly hair and a white paper mask muffling the lilt of her salon gossip, Meire adjusts a neon ring of light and peers businesslike at the calloused foot of a client lying on a white leatherette recliner. Pedicures are serious business in this mecca of sun worship and sandals.
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As lowly a job as it may seem to bathe, poke, pluck, and massage other people's feet, this job is golden. It has boosted Meire up the socioeconomic ladder and out of the slums: By serving the middle and upper classes in her cubicle at Ipanema's Spa do Pé (Foot Spa), she has herself entered Brazil's burgeoning middle class.