Today’s feature is an interview with the beautiful actress Juliana Alves. She is one of the most recognizable black actresses in Brazil and one of only a handful of black women to be featured on the cover of the Brazilian version of Playboy magazine. Previously featured here in a piece about Brazil’s Beyonces, Juliana discusses her beginnings in the entertainment industry, her goals, her thoughts on the system of quotas, black representation in the media and even a few of her beauty secrets.
Was ballet your first artistic endeavor?
Yes. I danced from the age of 3 until the age of 20 and I’ve gone back to it now at 27*. I participated in various presentations of forma amadora, and even went on to the Domingão do Faustão show on the Globo Network. At that time, they needed different girls and I wore braids in my hair, they didn’t have anyone like this in the group. This was one of my first jobs in search of financial independence. My dream is to do musicals professionally.
Where did your desire to be an actress come from?
After Faustão, I did auditions for TV commercials and I got a profile in an agency, which increased my desire to specialize and study theater.
The production of “Big Brother Brasil” discovered you in a show in Rio. Did you have any doubts about accepting the invitation?
Before, I said I would never participate in BBB. But at the time I didn’t have anything to lose. I was doing a lot things at the time: ballet, theatre amador, I was a representative of the NGO Crioula, that fights prejudice against black women, I took Social Assistance courses and passed the college entrance exam in the area of Psychology. At most, I would get back to everything later.
And how did you begin your work in novelas?
From the experience of BBB, I had a actress registration at Globo TV. In the same year, the director Jorge Fernando needed someone with my profile for the novela Chocolate com Pimenta, my first novela. Later, I earned a role in the novela Duas Caras, when I played the role of Gislaine, that became a big hit. I traveled around the whole country and to Angola, with other work because of the success of that character. But it was in (the novela) Caminho das Índias that the public learned my name.
Has your family influenced your career?
My mother gave classes in various places so that I got a good education. She took me to the theater and got me started in ballet. In spite of not having the means to buy a Barbie doll, she provided me with a cultural base that wasn’t very common for our origins, (which were) very humble. My father is a sociologist. The two were connected to social movements and they took me to a protest. Today, I always try to participate in social actions. I feel that I need to use my image to help transform society. Because of this, I am a patron of a campaign for blood donations among other things. As a citizen, I seek to give good examples.
Until now, what have been the main difficulties in your path?
I seem to attract very specific personalities, because I am a black woman, of having a certain capacity, what they call “mulherão” (statuesque), far from the stereotype of the perfect body, and having curly/nappy hair. The fact that I don’t accept fitting into a label makes things difficult. Being ex-character from BBB can help people identify me, but it cannot be a way of evaluating me. I want to make my career based on my professional growth.
How do you define Brazilian beauty?
We are multiple and unique at the same time, we are warriors, sweet and good-natured. We have features of the entire world, but the Brazilian DNA is always present. I like my beauty a lot, for example, in spite of not considering myself the standard. For me, being beautiful means to be in harmony with your nature. I appreciate people that respect their natural features. I see a lot of beauty in authenticity.
Do you think that black beauty is on the rise in the media?
It is certainly on the rise. I don’t like what’s in fashion much, I’m a little scared of this because fashion comes and goes. I believe that it’s on the rise because mainly as we are influenced by novelas. I do not really like fashion, I’m a little afraid of it, because fashion comes and goes. I believe it is on the rise up because, as we are mainly influenced by the novelas, Taís Araújo, Camila Pitanga in Camade Gato, there is Ildi Silva who made the cover of VIP (magazine) and me in Playboy. I think blacks have more opportunities today, but it is far from satisfactory. I think people have to see Brazil as a mixed country and people have the freedom to be as they are and they can overcome the standards that make them judge beauty from a European standard.
Are you engaged in the black cause? Is it true that you went to college through the quota system?
On the systems of quotas for blacks: I do think it is necessary. While people who are employers don’t to let this invisible barrier fall, you need someone to force them. Prejudice is not in the quotas odds, but in those who don’t let opportunities happen. Today blacks are seen as a consumer market, whereas before they were not. Before when you’d see a black model on the catwalk you thought “why is she there?” Today you look and think “why is there not a black model there?” In every sector people need opportunities and in fashion is not because of talent that the models are not there, but because of a standard of beauty. If there is one sector where I am very in favor of quotas, it’s in the fashion industry. Brazil has a history and it is the greatest proof that blacks suffer prejudice because the majority of the poor are black. No one invented this. We feed this prejudice in many ways and today it happens unconsciously, because if you ask people they just say they are not prejudiced. If someone can present a different solution, I will accept this! Some people say that time will change things, but will this time be fair? I think that our state, our society has failed, so we have to fix it.
What are you beauty techniques?
I wash my face with anti-acne soap and I use a product for daily peeling. On my body I use moisturizers and from time to time, I use almond oil to prevent stretch marks. for my hair, I use leave conditioner and moisturizers are essential.
Juliana is one of only a handful of Afro-Brazilian women that have ever been featured on the cover of the Brazilian edition of Playboy magazine. Below, watch a short video taken from that session.
* – Interview was conducted three years ago