Pamela Bijout

A double identity, a single purpose

No money? Your house is collapsing? Your grandma is sick? Don’t worry, there is a hero who can save you. Through the dark Santiago night, the legend is spreading. Who is she? Where did she come from? When there is no one else to turn to, follow the whispers to Pamela Bijout...

80_pamela_bijout_image180_pamela_bijout_image280_pamela_bijout_image380_pamela_bijout_image480_pamela_bijout_image5The best superheroes in fiction always have a double identity. Spiderman is a photographer, Superman a journalist, Daredevil a lawyer and Wonder Woman an Amazonian princess. Pamela Bijout, the singing heroine of Recoleta, Santiago, Chile is a hairdresser. And a man.

Eduardo Santibañez is 46 years old. Ever since he was a boy he has felt a certain dissonance between how he feels and what he sees in the mirror, a certain asymmetry between what the world and the arbitrary genetic game wanted for him and what he truly desired. Gay since he was seven and a transvestite for the last ten years, Eduardo decided to make a virtue of what many around him saw as a problem, to use his peculiarity as a special power to be happy and to make others happy.

In the mornings Eduardo can be found in “Hollywood”, his barbershop. Like many other hairdressers, between bottles of shampoo, scissors and hairdryers, he is an amateur psychologist listening to the problems and anxieties of his neighbors. But at nights, Eduardo puts on mascara, lipstick and a wig to become Pamela Bijout, a diva, a star of the stage who directs the charity performances of the “Hollywood” company in which he and other transgender artists impersonate Cher, Madonna, Gloria Gaynor and Thalia.

For ten years Pamela Bijout and her Hollywood company have been doing charitable shows in which the public makes donations to help neighbors who have fallen on hard times. Through fund-raising performances for her community, Pamela has enabled the rebuilding of homes destroyed by fire, the purchase of coffins, the payment of hospital bills, the acquisition of medicines and the paying off of mortgages. Although Chile has one of the most stable economies in Latin America, 2.5 million Chileans still live in poverty. When misfortune strikes, when darkness seems to smother lives with its odious breath, extraordinary people look into themselves to exploit that which makes them unique, to shine a light into the void. Whether you call him Eduardo or Pamela, the only wish of this exceptional performer is for the light of his actions to do justice to the name he has taken: Bijout (jewel).