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c. 1740s

There are numerous variations of Anastácia's life story, but the most detailed goes as follows: On April 9, 1740, the slave ship Madalena arrived in Bahia from Angola with 112 slaves on board. Among these newly arrived Africans was a woman named Delminda. Some years after her arrival, Delminda's master raped her, and upon discovering that she was pregnant, sold her away to the town of Pompeu in Minas Gerais. Delminda's daughter, Anastácia, was born with blue eyes and was widely recognized as beautiful. As Anastácia grew up, her master's son made numerous sexual overtures toward her, even offering her money to sleep with him.

After steadfastly refusing the boy's advances and fighting him off on several occasions, Anastácia was outfitted with an iron collar and a leather mask in order to make her acquiescent. This mask and iron collar were a common form of punishment in Brazil, particularly for runaway slaves. The mask was also utilized to prevent slaves from eating dirt, a common response to nutritional deficiency. Anastácia was tortured and raped, and the mask was removed only when it was time for her to eat. Suffering great pain and infection from the iron collar digging into her flesh, Anastácia maintained a quiet dignity throughout her ordeals. Eventually she was carried to Rio de Janeiro, where she died in agony on an uncertain date, still wearing the mask. Supposedly, she was buried in Igreja do Rosário in Rio de Janeiro, but her remains disappeared when the church was destroyed by fire.

In his ethnographic study of devotion to Anastácia, John Burdick has shown that veneration of a masked, collared female slave dates back until at least the 1940s, especially in Minas Gerais. The legend of Anastácia, which apparently was passed down through oral history in the years following her death, was exposed to a broader Brazilian audience beginning in the early 1970s. In 1968, the Museum of the Negro, an annex of the Igreja do Rosário in Rio de Janeiro, opened an exposition commemorating the eightieth anniversary of abolition. In order to illustrate methods of slave torture, an etching by the French traveler and artist Jacques Arago was included in the exposition. The exposition received little notice until 1971, when the remains of Princess Isabel, the "great liberator" of Brazil's slaves, were brought from Portugal. Before being taken to Petrópolis for burial, Isabel's coffin was put on display at the Museum of the Negro. Thousands arrived at the museum to pay their respects. Upon seeing the Arago etching, people immediately associated it with the Anastácia of oral tradition. Ironically, Arago's original drawing was intended to depict a young man punished for running away from his enslavement. Arago's intentions aside, Brazilians were inspired by what they interpreted as a visual representation of the mythical Anastácia.

The oral tradition was quickly transcribed and published by a vanity press. The Brazilian media also eagerly consumed her story. As newspapers, radio, and television presented versions of Anastácia's life history, spiritual devotion to her spread throughout the country. By the mid-1980s, Anastácia claimed thousands of adherents who publicly recited her miracles. In 1984 her supporters circumvented official channels and appealed directly to the pope for Anastácia's canonization. Alarmed by Anastácia's growing popularity, Brazilian cardinal Dom Eugênio hired a historian to research whether Anastácia ever truly existed. After two years of research, the Church's historian determined that there was no evidence to support the existence of Anastácia. As a result of this ruling, Cardinal Dom Eugênio ruled that all objects related to the devotion of Anastácia must be removed from the Igreja do Rosário. Thus, the cardinal squashed any hopes that Anastácia would be accepted into church orthodoxy.

Despite the church's denial of Anastácia's historical existence, her adherents, especially black women, continue to maintain their devotion to her. The majority of these women believe that Anastácia was not of mixed ancestry but rather was a beautiful African woman. As a symbol of black phenotypical beauty, resistance to white and male power, and ultimate forgiveness, Anastácia represents a node of historical familiarity and temporal strength for Brazil's black women. By the mid-1990s there were four pilgrimage sites in Rio de Janeiro that attracted hundreds of people daily. Moreover, images and icons of Anastácia are widely available, thereby facilitating individual devotion. Some estimates claim that she has as many as twenty-eight million adherents.

See also Slavery


Burdick, John. Blessed Anastácia: Women, Race, and Popular Christianity in Brazil. New York: Routledge, 1998.

Handler, Jerome S., and Michael L. Tuite, Jr. "The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record." Available from <>.

Oliveira, Eduardo de, ed. "Escravo Anastácia." In Quem é quem na negritude brasileira, biografias, vol. 1. São Paulo: Congresso Nacional Afro-Brasileiro, 1998, pp. 102103.

james h. sweet (2005)

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For the Record

Selected discography


As one of the best-kept secrets in the world of pop music, singer Anastacia remained a relative unknown until she was well into her twenties, a comparatively old age in which to garner a following from within pop youth culture in the 2000s. The bespectacled Anastacia has broken other rules and standards of pop music protocol also, not only by wearing her glasses regularlyeven to photo shootsbut also by revealing a scar on her stomach and by recording songs she likes against the advice of her Manáger, her friends, and even her record label. Despite such iconoclastic tendencies, Anastacia continues to be a sought-after musical talent. She relies on an exceptional and powerful voice to propel her career forward.

The singer known as Anastacia was born Anastacia Newkirk on September 17, c. 1974, and raised in a show-business family. Various published biographies diverge as to the exact details of her early life. She was born, according to most accounts, in Chicago, Illinois, and later moved to New York City, but her year of birth has been reported as 1973, 1974, and 1975. While some reports maintain that she was born in New York City, or moved to Los Angeles, California, as a young girl, most concur that by age 14 Anastacia was living in New York City and attending the citys arty Professional Childrens School. Anastacia is the daughter of musical parents: Diane Hurley, a Broadway singer and actress, and Robert Newkirk, a vocalist who performed regularly in nightclubs along the East Coast.

After high school graduation, Anastacia and her sister were attracted to the New York City night life. In particular they frequented a favorite dance club where freestyle music with a very loose beat was the norm. Anastacias dancing was appreciated at the club, where her budding talent was recognized, and she nurtured some contacts to further her career. Her big show business break, however, would happen elsewhere.

Spending her time clubbing at night, Anastacia worked by day as a receptionist at a beauty salon. When she began to seriously pursue a career as a singer and dancer, she gained experience by supplementing that job by singing at local weddings. In 1999 she secured parts as a dancer in at least two music videos for the group Salt n Pepa, and also appeared on cable televisions Club MTV. Anastacia came to the notice of talent scouts after she made an appearance on MTVs talent contest The Cut. Although she lost the talent contest, she gained career success by catching the eye of TLC vocalist Lisa Left Eye Lopes, who reportedly told Sony Music executive Tommy Mottola that she might be worth a second look. To her astonishment, she received a call of encouragement from Michael Jackson who hinted that he would like to share a stage with her. Soon afterward she met pop superstar Elton John, who was likewise enamored by her powerful voice and encouraged her further.

For the Record

Born Anastacia Newkirk on September 17, c. 1974, in Chicago, IL; daughter Robert Newkirk (a singer) and Diane Hurley (an actress). Education: Attended Professional Childrens School, New York, NY.

Worked as beauty salon receptionist and wedding singer; professional dancer on Club MTV and music videos; finalist on television talent show The Cut on MTV, 1999; signed to Daylight label, released debut album, Not That Kind, 1999; released Freak of Nature, 2001.

Awards: Best New International Artist, World Music Awards, and Best Pop Artist, MTV Europe Music Awards, 2001; Dutch Edison International Female Artist of the Year, and Golden Camera Award for Best International Pop Artist, 2002.

Addresses: Record company Epic Records, 1810 Century Park West, Los Angeles, CA 90026. Website Anastacia Official Website:

After being contacted by Sony Records, Anastaciawho had by now dropped her last namesigned with the companys Epic/Daylight label and recorded her debut album, Not That Kind, in 2000. Chalking up over two million overseas sales, the album ranked in the top ten on two continents. Meanwhile, the single Im Outta Love charted at number 15 on Billboards Hot 100 in the United States, with an impressive 1.2 million copies sold. With the albums rerelease, Anastacias record sales topped four million copies, classifying her effort as an overwhelming success. By August of 2000, Im Outta Love had climbed to number two, and Anastacia was on her way to Thailand to promote the album.

By 2001 Anastacia had performed on stage not only with her mentor, Elton John, but also with opera great Luciano Pavarotti. She was also no stranger to television appearances, having appeared at the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize concert and sharing a television stage on Pavarotti & Friends for Afghanistan as well. This exposure, combined with an episodic appearance on the television show Ally McBeal and singing on televisions Party in the Park, combined with Anastacias spunky performance of the Donna Summer classic Bad Girls at the 2002 BRIT Awards to add to the singers new popularity. In 2002 Anastacia collaborated with Glen Ballard on a new song, Boom, which was commissioned especially to be performed as part of the 2002 World Cup Soccer tournament. The tune, which was declared the official song of the World Cup, had its world debut on television in December of 2001.

While Anastacia remains private about much of her personal life, due to her growing popularity she has been the focus of media attention. A blonde, she loves butterflies, especially in her hair. With brown eyes, she often appears in spectacles; she forthrightly states that her glasses help her to see and therefore help define who she is. At age 13 the singer was diagnosed with Crohns disease, an intestinal disorder. Coping with the discomfort and debilitating effects of this disease have also helped define who she is, and she credits them with helping her get in touch with her emotions. Though her style of dress is far from extreme, Anastacia has spoken freely about a huge surgical scar on her abdomen and displays it regularly whenever a costume permits. With a reputation as a modest performer who is not self-absorbed, Anastacia is sure of herself and is unlikely to give heed to negative feedback. A tattoo she sports on the cover of her Im Outta Love single is the real thing, however. Shaped like an Egyptian ankh symbol, it is located on her lower back.

Anastacia released her sophomore effort, Freak of Nature, in 2001, an album that leans more toward straightforward rock while still maintaining the irresistible dance grooves that made her debut an international success, according to Jose F. Promis of All Music Guide.

Selected discography

Not That Kind, Epic, 2000.

(With Elton John) One Night Only: The Greatest Hits, Universal, 2000.

Freak of Nature, Sony, 2001.



Daily Record, September 22, 2000; November 16, 2001.

Interview, October 2000.

Sunday Mail (London, England), June 10, 2001.


Anastacia, All Music Guide, (April 1, 2002).

Anastacia, Sing (April 1, 2002).

Gloria Cooksey

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