Beatriz Fortunato, winner of a modeling contest for young women from Brazil’s poor communities

Model Beatriz Fortunato was the winner of the CUFA modeling contest in 2012
Model Beatriz Fortunato was the winner of the CUFA modeling contest in 2012

Note from BW of Brazil: As this blog has consistently shown, Brazil is a country that consistently promotes its status as a “mixed race nation” while simultaneously ignoring and making its visibly black community all but invisible in its media. The modeling world is one of the most blatant examples of this policy of “apartheid” in which millions of gorgeous afrodescendentes are pushed to side while the industry promotes the country as an extension of Europe in Latin America. A little more than year ago, model Beatriz Fortunato managed to slip through the cracks of this “dictatorship of whiteness” and win a modeling contest featuring girls from the country’s poorer communities. In some ways, one could say this doesn’t represent a true advance as it was a contest for people from the lower classes, which is about 70% Afro-Brazilian anyway. Even so, the face of poverty in Brazil is more accepted if it is closer to the European aesthetic. But politics aside, the contest was Beatriz’s moment in the spotlight thus her story is definitely worthy of being featured here on a site about Black Women of Brazil. See more of Beatriz here.

‘I know that I wasn’t the prettiest’, says the CUFA Top model Beatriz Fortunato

by Fabiola Leoni and other contributors

Model is from Rio de Janeiro, lives in the Jacarézinho community and thinks that compassion and posture helped her win the contest

Beatriz overcame a field of more 20,000 to to be named CUFA's Top Models
Beatriz overcame a field of more 20,000 to to be named CUFA’s Top Models

The life of Beatriz Fortunato has never been easy. A resident of the Jacarézinho community in Rio de Janeiro, the carioca (1) became the pride of area where she lives after winning the Top CUFA contest. The girl that stands 5’9 ½ (1,77 m) tall and weighing 115 lbs (52kg) overcame 26 other candidates from all over Brazil to take the title of supermodel of the communities. Beatriz says she was always very proud of where she lives: “I’ve already felt victorious because I was representing my community.”

Finalists in CUFA contest
Finalists in CUFA contest

The model believes that the event had an enormous importance of displaying and enhancing the communities in Brazil. “There was never such a big event to show that the favela (slum) has good things,” she says. The contest will even change the girl’s life: “Before the contest casting and work didn’t appear, and I worked a few jobs in a little shop near my house….now already some invitations have come.” With the money that she makes with work as a model, Beatriz helps her family. “I help at home, give part (of the money) to my mom and keep another part to spend on myself,” she says.


 Happy, she says she now serves as a reference in the community where he lives for other girls who dream of a career as a model. “Because people have seen me, they know that it is possible to try a modeling career, and some girls have already come asking me how they can start working in the area,” says the model, who is also dedicated to MMA classes and controlling her diet: “I can’t get soft, cellulite will appears.” Regarding the factor that caused the jurors to choose her, she expresses herself with sincerity: “I know I wasn’t the prettiest, but it was the combination of compassion and posture that led me to be the winner.”


The path to victory for Beatriz was a long shot. In the beginning of the contest, there were 20,000 candidates from all over Brazil representing all 26 states and the nation’s capital city. From Beatriz’s state of Rio de Janeiro alone there 8,000 contestants that were narrowed down to 800 and finally down to 30, all having the dream of becoming the next Gisele Bundchen. The event, held by the Central Única de Favelas (Central Union of Slums or Cufa) (2), is unique to favela inhabitants, poor communities and surrounding areas of Brazil. The goal, according to Cufa, is the search for the appreciation of diversity of the feminine aesthetic. The beauty contest was the first exclusively involving inhabitants of (poor) communities living in the country. The finals took place on the popular Globo TV variety show Caldeirão do Huck.

Beatriz's neighborhood of Jacarézinho in Rio de Janeiro
Beatriz’s neighborhood of Jacarézinho in Rio de Janeiro

Beatriz has worked as a model since age 13, attending trade and fashion shows.

“My first runway class was n the community when I was 11. But I couldn’t continue. Sometimes there was a confrontation on the morro when I had classes and I could not go. My mother always went with me,” says the Rio candidate who has been able to return to a new modeling course at age 14 when she got a full scholarship.


Beatriz’s only two ex-boyfriends are now trying a new chance with the model. Her former classmates from school are also dying…with envy! For whoever was called giraffe and skinny, I’m great, huh? (laughs). I didn’t have a butt or chest and have always been very tall,” laughs Bia far from finding herself sexy.

 Source: Extra, O Globo, TVG

1. Carioca is the nickname for a person born in the city of Rio de Janeiro

Rappers Nega Gizza and MV Bill of CUFA
Rappers Nega Gizza and MV Bill of CUFA

2. CUFA (Central Única das Favelas) is a Brazilian organization nationally recognized by political, social, sports and cultural spheres. It was created from the union of young people from various slums, mostly blacks seeking venues for expressing their attitudes, questions or simply their will to live. Rapper MV Bill is one of its founders and he has already received several awards due to his active participation in the hip hop movement. For example, UNESCO awarded him as one of the ten most militant people in the world in the last decade. Besides him, CUFA also has the support of Nega Gizza, a strong female reference in the world of rap, known and respected for her commitment and dedication to social causes. Nega Gizza is also director of Hutúz, the biggest festival of rap in Latin America, which is produced by CUFA. The organization also has the producer Celso Athayde as general coordinator. Source

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


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