When Luciano Huck, one of Brazil’s most famous TV personalities, stepped onto the stage at the São Paulo Creator Awards, he was greeted with roaring applause from the crowd.
“WeWork has arrived in Brazil on the right foot,” he said, congratulating the company’s cofounder Miguel McKelvey.
The Creator Awards’s first foray into South America was packed to the rafters with more than 1,000 people and showcased some of the best startup, nonprofit, and performing arts talent that Brazil—a continent-sized nation of more than 200 million people—has to offer.
The event took place on August 28 in São Paulo’s legendary underground nightclub Audio, which hosts top music acts from rap to techno at its longtime location in the Barra Funda neighborhood.
A total of almost $800,000 was handed out to nine winners over the course of the evening—three business ventures, three nonprofits, two performing artists, and one WeWork member who was lauded for community service.
Here are some of the most unique and exciting highlights of the evening.
Most defiant moment: In the business ventures category, Tomás Abrahão won $360,000 for his startup Raízs, which connects urban city dwellers with organic food producers. When a judge asked whether the organic food he works with is certified, Abrahão replied: “Organic food shouldn’t have to be certified. Food that contains pesticides should be.”
Best crowd-pleasing performance: The crowd arrived ready for a show, and they weren’t disappointed. The performing artist award went to Brazilian singer Tulipa Ruiz, who rocked the stage with a four-piece band to perform her hit “I’ll Stay a Little Bit Longer.”
Most touching dedication: Priscila Gama took home $180,000 in the business venture category for her startup Malalai, an app that helps women stay safer in cities by advising them about the best routes to take. She started strong in the first round, recounting stories about women being assaulted in Brazil. Progressing to the final round, she didn’t flinch as she was grilled by the judges. She dedicated the prize to her mother and to “the women that can change the world.”
Best call to action: Huck—known as the Oprah of Brazil—seemed especially moved by the mission of finalist Instituto Ninho Social, which works with the large homeless population in São Paulo. “What you are doing is so important because people often treat homeless people as criminals just because they are homeless,” he said.
Best take on an old favorite: With the exception of the salmon and cream cheese wrap, all the snacks were vegetarian or vegan. A Brazilian classic like kibe—baked croquettes made from bulgur wheat—was given a special twist, using mushrooms instead of ground beef.
Gutsiest move: Lucas Caldeira took the top prize in the nonprofit category for his organization Instituto Ninho Social. Caldeira presented his idea for Project Laundry, which would give homeless people a place to wash their clothes. One of the judges was Brazilian billionaire Luiza Trajano, whose retail company Magazine Luiza happens to sell washing machines. After winning $72,000, Caldeira went down to where Trajano was seated to give her his business card.
Most bang for the buck: Luiz Alberto Altmann Fazio took second place in the nonprofit category for his project called Biosaneamento, which builds low-cost, eco-friendly toilets for poor communities that are not connected to a sewer system. He announced that the $18,000 prize will allow him to expand the pilot program into more favela communities in Rio de Janeiro.
Longest lines: People queued up to collect free WeWork T-shirts and have professional portraits taken at the marketplace. Some of the favorite items on sale from the vendors: funky artisanal jewelry, hand-painted artwork, and designer dresses. McKelvey even bought a jacket from one vendor and wore it onstage.
Most heartwarming moment: Joabe Cardoso, who teaches English to people who can’t afford lessons, was shocked when he was called to the stage and awarded a $36,000 prize for his service to the community. He burst into tears before thanking his mother and the crowd. He then recited, in Portuguese, President John F. Kennedy’s famous quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
Most jobs offered: At the job fair, more than 1,000 employment opportunities were on offer—nearly a record for the Creator Awards. Attendees talked with representatives from companies like the local apartment rental service Quinto Andar, the marketing company Hi Platform, the information technology platform Tivit, and PARR, a service to help get São Paulo’s growing refugee population find work.
Best closing act: Closing out the evening was a performance by the Rio de Janeiro-based favela dance performance troupe Dream Team do Passinho. Afterward, revelers posted for photos, congratulated the winners, and partied on the dance floor.