Note from BW of Brazil: Today’s feature brings actress Erika Januza to the forefront once again. Erika was previously featured on the blog in anticipation of her major television debut in the series Suburbia, as well as a photo shoot, features on black beauty, black actresses wearing natural hair as well as a post on the roles of Afro-Brazilians on television. Although Erika’s first major role was highly anticipated, the series itself was an ultimate disappointment for viewers who aren’t satisfied just by seeing black actors on Eurocentric Brazilian media, but also concerned about what these roles say about the black population. In today’s piece, Erika re-creates an American magazine cover that created quite a stir a little over a month ago.
As usual, Erika is a true beauty in the photos but…one day it would be great to sit down and conduct a full interview with her. A few weeks ago, she stated that she supported a recent controversial, popular slogan entitled “we are all monkeys” as a means of speaking out against racism. Taking that into context (and coming on the heels of yesterday’s post in which a black beauty queen said she had never been a victim of racism and that she didn’t carry any sort of “black flag”), one must also wonder about Erika’s politics in terms of the racial question. Anyway, on with the post…
Erika Januza incarnates black actress elected “The Most Beautiful in the World” and reveals that she denied her kinky/curly hair: ‘I spent my life straightening my hair.”
Courtesy of Globo Extra
Erika Januza was a teenager when she watched Taís Araújo as Xica da Silva in the eponymous novela (soap opera). “She was a beauty reference that I had at the time. Once I was with her and was unable to talk about this,” she laments. Portraying Alice in 9 o’clock Globo TV novela Em família, the beauty is now placed in the same position of the actress.
Not coincidentally, she was invited by the column to reproduce the cover of US magazine People, which elected the Mexican actress Lupita Nyong’o, winner of the Oscar for best supporting actress this year, as the most beautiful woman of 2014. It’s the third time that a black woman carries the title. Before the star of the film 12 Years a Slave, there were only Halle Berry and Beyoncé.
“I was proud, but it’s a shame that one still distinguishes between beauties by color. People say, ‘what a beautiful black woman!’ There is a prejudice in this and clearly it’s not cool. But it has the positive side. Thankfully, our beauty is being recognized,” argues Erika, the latest beauty to be a part of the list of black stars on TV.
With a clean face and loose hair, Erika proves that the selection is not in vain. “I always knew how to recognize my qualities. I have vain since I was very young, I always made myself up. Before I came to TV I had access to fewer products. Finding a base in the color of my skin was impossible,” says the woman that debuted in the series Suburbia, two years ago. It was because of the role, in fact, that she started wearing her hair natural after years of battling the kinks and curls. “I spent my whole life straightening my hair. I learned to like it like this.”
In spite of having suffered prejudice (“I had boyfriends who didn’t want to introduce me to their families because I was black,” she recalls), Erika doesn’t like to carry flags (1). Asked about the names that comes to mind when she thinks of beautiful woman and she cites representatives of distinct standards: actresses Cris Vianna and Juliana Paes and model Ana Hickmann. “They are ‘big ones’, they have presence,” she explains, revealing her only “pet peeve” that’s in no way related to skin color: “I was thin! I had to wear two pairs of pants to disguise my skinny legs.”
1. Of course, this is the actress’s own view which she has a right to have. But on the other hand, black Brazilians are often raised not to have any sort of racial militancy or identity and as such, often have problems facing racism when it occurs, as Erika’s role model, actress Taís Araújo herself revealed. The issue here would be the following: Brazil’s collective group of organizations that fight for black rights, the Movimento Negro, have long fought and denounced a Brazil that continues to avoid addressing racial issues directly, brought the battle front and center and secured various victories over the years. And even with the severe under-representation of black actors/actresses in the media today, one could argue that the movement may indirectly be responsible for actresses like Erika finding success. In other words, the struggle IS by nature political and in order to make more advances, more people have to wave the flag for that particular issue.