From business to entertainment, education to medicine, Luso-Canadians are taking the world by storm.
Over the centuries, there have been a lot of famous Portuguese people who have left their mark on the world – Explorers like Bartolomeu Dias, Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan; Literary figures Luís Vaz de Camões, Fernando Pessoa and Jose Saramago; musicians Amália Rodrigues and Mariza; and sports figures like Rosa Mota and Cristiano Ronaldo. But what about in Canada? When it comes to Portuguese-Canadians, it’s not all Vinho do Porto and bacalhau. Portuguese-Canadians are showing their influence throughout our country and the world.
Who are these influential people? They are musicians and Olympians. Fashionistas and activists. Politicians and scientists. They influence millions of people online and in boardrooms. Some are young and some have experience. They are immigrants and children of immigrants.
When we started filtering through the contenders, we found many are very obvious and they made their way to the list because they are in our faces daily, but many are lesser known.
Luso Life presents 25 influencers leading the Lusophone charge in the 21st century.
Ana Bailão is a Toronto City Councillor for Ward 9 – Davenport. Since her election in 2010 (Ward 18 2010-2018), she has been a passionate and energetic voice for women, low-income families and new Canadians. She is heavily involved in promoting a city design that serves our business, residential and social needs.
In addition to “serving the people”, Bailão is currently the Director on the Toronto Housing Committee, Chair of Affordable Housing Committee and Chair of Special Working Group, has served as the President of the Federation of Portuguese Canadian Business and Professionals, was awarded the National Order of Portugal – Comenda da Ordem do Infante D. Henrique to recognize her dedication to her community, has been a board member at the Working Women Community Centre and Vice President of the European Union chamber of Commerce in Toronto.
ENTREPRENEUR | LAWYER
Andrew Arruda is the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of ROSS Intelligence, an artificial intelligence (AI) company which was created at the University of Toronto. It has quickly become one of the most important AI companies in the world. Arruda speaks internationally on the subjects of AI, legal technology and entrepreneurship, and has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, BBC, CNBC, CBS, Fortune, Inc., Forbes, and the Financial Times. A member of the Forbes 30 under 30 class of 2017, as well as a 2016 TED speaker, Arruda aims to forever change the way legal services are delivered. He is a true visionary leader and communicator. He splits his time between Toronto, New York and San Francisco.
Toronto native Andrew Coimbra’s designs have taken the fashion world by storm. His self-titled brand, Andrew Coimbra, was established 2015, designing lifestyle and ready-to-wear menswear. It has since expanded to include women fashions. The brand was recognized at Toronto Men’s Fashion Week and was one of five finalists in the Emerging New Labels competition. In 2017, the label was a finalist in the TFI New Labels Competition and in April 2018, Andrew was nominated for the Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent in Design at the 2018 Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards. Coimbra’s work is fearless, and his inspiration comes from art, culture, youth and current events. Andrew has no boundaries and will continue to create, learn and explore the world of fashion and has a bright future ahead
António Lima was born on February 25,1958 and immigrated to Canada on November 3, 1978. He is married to Maria De La Salette Lima Pedra and has two daughters, Stefanie and Cassandra.
Lima started The Limen Group Ltd. in the early 80’s and currently employs over 1000 people. With over 25 years of experience, the Limen Group Ltd. is a global leader in the construction industry and one of Canada’s largest and most respected structural and architectural construction companies, with operations from coast to coast. Limen’s specialty services include masonry, restoration, stone and concrete forming for industrial, commercial, institutional and multi-residential high-rise and large surface buildings.
After dedicating most of his life to working in the financial sector, Carlos Leitão entered politics in 2014 and was elected MP in the for the riding of Robert-Baldwin in Quebec and appointed Minister of Finance for the province. Born in Peniche, Portugal he moved to Canada in 1975 with his family at age 17. He went on to attain a Bachelor’s degree in economic sciences from McGill University. He has over 30 years of experience in Canadian banking and financial services including working for Laurentian Bank Securities as the Chief Economist in 2003 and being appointed to the Risk Management Committee in 2006. He continues to be a member of the Bank of Canada’s Quebec Panel since 2007.
Charles Sousa is a former politician who served as the Ontario Minister of Finance from 2013 to 2018. He was the Liberal member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for Mississauga South from 2007-2018. He was a Cabinet minister in the governments of McGuinty and Wynne and also held positions as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Minister Responsible for the 2015 Pan & ParaPan American Games and Minister of Labour. Before politics, Sousa worked at RBC Financial Group for more than 20 years in commercial banking and he owned and operated a financing company supporting small businesses. He has served as a member of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Toronto Board of Trade, and as a director of the American Chamber of Commerce. Charles’ commitment to community service earned him the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2003 and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. He was also inducted as a Commander of the Order of Merit in Portugal.
Young, passionate and driven, Chiara Picão is a teenager who climbs physical mountains to represent her metaphorically climbing mountains of injustice, specifically, to support equal access to education for girls around the world. She started her “Literally Climbing Mountains for Girls Education” campaign after a sequence of fateful events when she was 12 – an inspiring experience at WE Day, the shooting of female education advocate Malala Yousafzai and a trip to Pico Island, Portugal. At 16, Chiara with her father, Joe Picão has conquered three of the world’s highest peaks – Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Elbrus and Ponta do Pico and has raised over $17,000 to donate to two girls’ schools in rural Kenya. She will continue to fight for equality, fight to create a better world and continue to conquer the largest mountains for those who cannot fight.
Hernâni Raposo is a songwriter, producer and accomplished multi-instrumentalist who plays Portuguese and Brazilian cavaquinho, acoustic and electric bass, keyboard, classic and electric guitar, percussion and Portuguese guitar. Hernâni’s professional musical career began in 1974 as a member of Toronto band Águias, has spanned over four decades and has earned him three platinum albums and seven gold albums. He has toured globally and is a versatile musician who plays in many styles: pop, traditional Portuguese, South American Latin, disco, blues, fado and dance music. He continues producing, recording and performing with luso artists in Canada, USA and Portugal.
Jack Oliveira has been a member of LiUNA Local 183 for more than three decades and is currently the Business Manager at both LiUNA Local 183 and LiUNA OPDC. The son of a labourer, Oliveira worked in the field as a labourer himself for over a decade, becoming a foreman and developing his natural leadership skills. He has occupied various positions and has been an elected Local 183 Executive Board Member since 2000.
Oliveira has succeeded in contributing to significant growth in the shortest period of time, not to mention the massive improvements that benefit the Membership and the Retirees of LiUNA Local 183. He supports the workers’ rights and safety and does everything in his power to represent them, support them and address their concerns, needs and ideas. He is respected among the Portuguese community and Ontario for his loyalty, professionalism and dedication to others.
Jack Prazeres was born in Portugal and immigrated to Canada at the age of 12. He is now married with two children residing in Streetsville. He has been in the masonry business since the 1980s and has been the owner/president of Senso Group since 2011. He has worked tirelessly in making serious strides in the local masonry and construction supply market.
Prazeres has experienced personal and professional success. Alongside being a respected businessman, Prazeres finds it extremely important to be connected to the Portuguese community. He has served as chair of the Carassauga cultural festival and president of the Portuguese Cultural Centre of Mississauga. He is the founder and executive board member of the Luso Canadian Charitable Society and is extremely involved with community organizations such as Portuguese Support Services for Quality Living. He has received numerous awards for his continuous community involvement and leadership including the Commendation of the Order of Merit of Portugal.
Janet De Silva
Janet (Jan) De Silva is the President & CEO of Toronto Region Board of Trade, a role she assumed in January 2015. Jan has focused her efforts on realizing the Board’s 2020 vision of making Toronto one of the most competitive and sought-after business regions in the world with a strategic emphasis on trade, transportation and talent.
Prior to her current position, De Silva was co-founder and CEO of Retail China Limited, a company that worked with international retail brands operating their retail stores and managing franchises in China.
She has been named Asian Business Executive in the Stevie Awards for Women in Business (2006), one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women (2007), and recognized as a “Woman of Our Time” by the South China Morning Post for her contribution to education in Hong Kong (2014). Ms. De Silva holds an MBA from the Ivey Business School at Western University and a Doctor of Law Honoris Causa from Thompson Rivers University.
Jerry Dias is a Canadian trade unionist who was elected the first president of the Unifor union, a merger between the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada. This private-sector union represents about 300,000 workers in almost every sector of the economy from manufacturing and mining to forestry and fishing.
Dias worked at de Havilland’s facilities in Downsview where his father, Jerry Dias. Sr., led the plant’s United Auto Workers Local 112 from 1967-1978. He won the Local 112 presidency in 1987 until he was appointed staff representative for the Canadian Auto Workers’ national office in 1993.
Dias has been active in the labour movement for nearly four decades. He continues to lead Unifor’s ambitious efforts to help change the country into one in which we can all benefit from good jobs, safe communities and a prosperous, inclusive economy.
John Tavares is a professional ice hockey player who
currently signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was selected first overall by the New York Islanders in the 2009 National Hockey League (NHL) Entry Draft. Tavares was born on September 20, 1990 in Mississauga, Ontario, to Barbara and Joe Tavares, who are of Polish and Portuguese descent, respectively. Tavares has represented Canada at five International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF)-sanctioned events, including the 2010 and 2011 World Championships. At the under-20 level, he won gold medals at the 2008 and 2009 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships where he was named the most valuable player of the 2009 tournament after scoring eight goals and 15 points in six games. In 2014, he was named to the 2014 Canadian Olympic Hockey Team, winning a gold medal at Sochi 2014. He was inducted into the Portuguese Canadian Walk of Fame in 2016.
José Carlos Teixeira
José Carlos Teixeira holds a Ph.d in Geography and is currently a professor at University of British Columbia Okanagan. Over the years, he has been committed to putting contemporary issues in the urban and social geography of Canadian cities at the centre of his teaching. His early research focused on Portuguese settlement in Canada and evolved to research on settlement experiences of different immigrant groups. His current research explores the changing social geography of Canadian cities, ethnic entrepreneurship through comparative cases studies of immigrants and the structure and evolution of the Portuguese communities in Canada. He has received many awards including the Professional Excellence Award – Federation of Portuguese Canadian Business and Professionals in 2017. He was awarded with the Medal for Professional Merit in 2009 from the Autonomous Region of Azores and he is “Comendador – Ordem do Infante D. Henrique” since 2006.
José Correia is a businessman and entrepreneur from Winnipeg, Manitoba.
He is the President and co-founder of Bee-Clean Building Maintenance, Canada’s largest janitorial service provider. Bee-Clean was the first Canadian Company to have been awarded both the ISSA Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) and the recently introduced CIMS-Green Building (CIMS-GB) criteria with honours from the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA). ISSA recognizes organizations that represent the professional cleaning industry as companies of operational excellence; they depict a commitment to sustainability and providing added value to their customers. Bee-Clean was one of ten North American companies to have received certification and the only Canadian recipient. Jose Correia will continue to provide international leadership in environmental stewardship.
Julia Dantas is a makeup artist, beauty influencer and finalist on Kim Kardashian West’s TV show Glam Masters. She has a passion for everything beauty, especially makeup, hair and art. In addition to graduating from the top of her class at CMU, Julia is certified in all areas of makeup artistry – from fashion, bridal and theatre to special affects makeup (SFX), prosthetics and even something called “creature design.” Her main goal is to make people feel and look their absolute best! She has been posted on Kim Kardashian’s Instagram, as well as KKW Beauty, Pure Cosmetics, Tarte Cosmetics, Smashbox, Glamglow, MDNA SKIN (Madonna’s skincare line), and dozens more. Julia was recently featured in the July 2018 edition of Marie Claire magazine. Apart from her heavy social media presence, with over 31K followers on Instagram, she also has a contract with CBC Life, where Julia creates YouTube videos for them to use on their social media. Her career as a makeup artist will only continue to grow from here.
A native of Montreal, Meaghan Benfeito was born on March 2, 1989, to Portuguese parents, Arthur Benfeito and Margarida Correia. The Olympic medalist originally competed as a swimmer but switched to diving after watching fellow Canadian divers Emilie Heymans and Alexandre Despatie. Her Olympic debut was at Beijing 2008 with her partner Roseline Filion. Although, they placed seventh in synchronized diving, this set her up for future appearances. Benfeito and Filion won bronze in the 10m synchronized dive at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 where Benfeito also won bronze in the 10m individual platform event. She has also participated in World Championship competitions, Commonwealth Games and the Pan American Games. Benfeito was named as Canada’s flag bearer for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. She currently has her sights set on competing in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Miguel Braga redirected his passion for design and fashion into KubeBath, an international company that specializes in vanities and washroom accessories and records $25 million in annual Sales.
Kubebath’s strength lies in its innovation of both high-quality products and its strong online presence, with internet factoring for over 90% of its traffic and sales. This vision is a mainstay of Miguel’s personality. To know him is to understand his constant thirst for quality and innovation. Miguel has an eye for what the market trends are and how to capture the need and interest of the client.
In his short time living in Canada, Miguel has transformed KubeBath into a major player and industry trendsetter. There are no limits to his creativity and we guarantee that there are many more ground-breaking successes are in his future, making Miguel Braga someone to be reckoned with and a leader of business.
Nancy Fonseca Silva-Gagliardi was born and raised in Toronto – granddaughter of Arlete Fonseca, owner of Toronto’s first Portuguese fish store “Peixaria Sagres”.
Nancy Silva-Gagliardi has a PhD in Molecular Biology and for many years the laboratory was her desk. She’s now a Research Operations Program Manager in the Research Institute at SickKids. In her current role, she provides oversight within the Research Institute on facilities management, building operations, renovation and construction projects, research safety, security and emergency preparedness and research core facilities.
Nancy has a distinguished academic career and professional life. She is described by her peers as an extremely competent and meticulous professional, with a positive attitude and friendly demeanor. She is able to balance the demands of being a mother of two and the owner of a life marked by determination and the belief that everything is achievable, if one is willing to work hard for it.
Nelly Furtado is a singer, songwriter and actress from Victoria, British Columbia who started singing in Portuguese at age four. Her debut album, “Whoa, Nelly!” shot her to fame in 2000 and she hasn’t looked back. To date, she has released six albums, has earned numerous awards and nominations, including a Grammy Award in 2002 for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, 10 Juno Awards, 3 MuchMusic Awards and stars on the Canadian Walk of Fame and Portuguese Canadian Walk of Fame. Furtado was also awarded “Commander of the Order of Prince Henry” in 2014, in Toronto, by the President of the Portuguese Republic.
Her philanthropic efforts include supporting numerous humanitarian causes relating to her Vancouver Island roots and the donation of $1,000,000 to help build a girls school in Kenya and a Free the Children program supporting girls in the Middle East and North. She was the recipient of the 2016 Allen Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award which recognizes her social activism and support of humanitarian causes.
Pedro Gil Vieira
Pedro Gil Vieira is a theoretical physicist and professor who has done significant work in the area of Quantum Field Theory and Quantum Gravity. A graduate of the Universidade do Porto, Portugal, Dr. Vieira earned his masters and PHD at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, France and joined the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics in 2009.
Pedro Vieira is one of 24 Canadian winners of major international research awards in 2015 featured in the publication, Canadian Excellence. He has also received the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, and the Gribov Medal. In January 2018, Viera was the first Portuguese to receive a prize of $100,000 from the University of Tel Aviv, Israel, for contributions in the area of physics. He was awarded The Raymond and Beverly Sackler International Prize which recognizes researchers under 40 with important contributions to their fields. He is also a dedicated mentor of postdoctoral fellows and graduate students – and is the founder of the popular Mathematica Summer School.
Ricardo Poupada co-founded AskMen.com in August 1999, the largest free men’s lifestyle website in the world. It is currently the number one site to help men improve their lives – from discovering new products, lifestyle trends, grooming, dating tips and more. It has international versions in Canada, Australia, Middle East, United Kingdom and United States. In 2005, Poupada sold AskMen.ca to IGN. In 2014, he co-founded Speed of Trust Ventures, extending his already active role in angel funding. In 2015, he co-founded 5th Wall Agency, another successful startup with global ambitions. It is focused on virtual and augmented reality and 360 videos whose work includes Fifty Shades Darker (the largest VR shoot with paid cast ever done), and the the first ever zero-gravity shoot with Tom Cruise for The Mummy VR Experience.
Ricardo is a winner of JCCM Entrepreneur of the Year Award and Click Magazine Top 40 Marketers of Canada. Poupada continues to learn about the world of technology and 5th Wall Agency is booming.
Shawn Mendes is a professional singer-songwriter who was born Toronto and raised in Pickering, Ontario. Mendes first gained attention after posting six-second snippets of cover versions of songs on YouTube and Vine. He was discovered in 2014 by manager Andrew Gertler and was signed to Island Records. His first single, “Life Of The Party,” debuted at #24 on the Billboard Hot 100 making Mendes, age 15, the youngest artist ever to debut inside the top 25. Mendes has received numerous awards for his music and constantly recognizes Canada in acceptance speeches – a proud Canadian. Recently, he dropped a revamped version of his hit single, “In My Blood” as Portugal’s official song for the 2018 World Cup. It was the first time Mendes sings in Portuguese, thereby honouring his cultural heritage.
Mendes is also know for his philanthropy and has worked with many organizations including DoSomething.org, Pencils of Promise, WE Schools program, Leave No Girl Behind, Mercury Phoenix Trust in support of HIV/AIDS.
Born in Montreal and raised in Vancouver, Sierra Furtado is a YouTube celebrity who is widely known as SierraMarieMakeup.
Since launching her channel in November 2012, the 25-year-old has accumulated over 2.7 million subscribers on YouTube and 1.8 million followers on Instagram @sierrafurtado. Her energetic, comical and quirky personality makes it easy for millions of teens around the world to engage with her. Her channel has social advice, hair and makeup tutorials, fashion and lifestyle trends. In 2016, she published a novel titled, “Life Uploaded” – a heartwarming, coming-of-age tale that explores what it means to redefine happiness on your own terms, and stay true to who you are, even in the mix of Internet fame. Currently living in Los Angeles, she continues to create and inspire young teens around the world.
Tasha De Vasconcelos
Born in Mozambique, Tasha de Vasconcelos moved to Canada with her family in 1980 after fleeing two revolutions (Mozambique and then Rhodesia).
As a supermodel, she has worked for many high-end brands such as Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. In 1998, she made her acting debut in the French film, Riches, belles etc.
Since 1996 Tasha has been recognized for her humanitarian work with organizations like Nelson Mandela Children’s Foundation in South Africa, and various UNAIDS children’s projects in Bolivia and Algeria with UNICEF. She is the founder of the AMOR Foundation which is dedicated reduce the rate of maternal mortality in Malawi, and the transmission of AIDS from mother to child in Africa. AMOR has notably opened four hospitals in Malawi (Kasese, Zomba Machinga and Thyolo). In 2016, she was appointed as a UN Women Global Champion for Planet 50-50 by 2030. She continues to travel the world to assist on many humanitarian missions and is an ambassador for many organizations.
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