Karen and Karina Ferreira: Representing black Brazilian beauty in the world of modeling, Part 1

black Brazilian women
Karen Maria Ferreira Flores and Karina Eugênia Ferreira Flores are identical twins, 15 years old, born in the capital city of Brasília, models, students of the public school system and residents of Guará, an administrative region of the federal district.

My mother is a teacher, she has lived in Brasília for over 20 years. I don’t know much about my father, he is an absent father, but for us this insignificant. In my childhood, I studied at Tia Elza, a private school nearby. Then I studied at two public schools in
Guará. We still attend public schools today. We were hated a lot by the girls because we were involved in many things, we thought it this was messed up. I always thought I was beautiful, but I never accepted my color. I always said: ‘Oh, I should be white’. Because at school, we were called Chica da Silva and a lot of other nicknames.


Before modeling, only wore jeans down to our feet, because we were so ashamed of our thin legs. Then, we became models, we hardly even wear pants, we wear shorts and dresses. I thought I was beautiful, but did not like the color of my skin, my hair and my height, we thought we were very tall. At school, we were the tallest. Today I think I am the most beautiful woman in the world. I mean, if we don’t think of ourselves as beautiful, who will? At school, when someone would someone would call us of Chica da Silva, monkey, or Pepe and Neném [a popular 90s black twin sister singing duo from Rio], we reacted, screaming, went to the director. We do not don’t down easily, we didn’t take this stuff home with us. We fought back in every way, and it was pretty bad.
My mother put in my head that I should be a doctor. And she told us what each daughter had to be. And we had this in mind, only that, after a certain age, we became aware of what we wanted. And I want to do it right, because I know that modeling career doesn’t last forever. Quotas are necessary, because let’s be honest … well … if we didn’t have them, the producers would keep saying, ‘For a black girl to work, she needs to be very good. She has to be perfect, much better than a white girl.’ My friends all say that the quotas for the university are unnecessary because it’s a form of racism. And for them, they might be, but only those who are black know what it is to suffer.”

I didn’t like the nicknames they gave us and it seemed that the more we complained, the more they talked. We took these jokes very seriously. After we grew up, we started dealing with the jokes better. But I never dared anyone daring to dub me this or that, because I think that this is a lack of respect. I never liked it and I never let it go without saying anything. I did not like my skin or my curly hair. We always brushed our hair. We started straightening our hair at five years of age. The good thing about us starting to model is that it improved our self-esteem, we began to accept ourselves more. Until three or four years ago, we didn’t accept ourselves very much. Then, we started to like what we had. I always tell everybody that Karen is the only person in the world that if someone is fighting with her, I step in the middle to defend her. I don’t do this for anyone else because I don’t like to fight. But for Karen, I’ll fight to the end. I wanted to be an architect, or lawyer, and today I also want to practice law, but with the intent to be a judge. I always, since I was a small child, I liked to watch the police shows and I always wanted to end injustice, arrest the bad guys and everything.
When we were 10, people said, ‘Oh, you can be models.’ Because of this, we begin to think about it. In 2008, we participated in a mock competition. We won first place, but did not receive what was promised. My mother was apprehensive. We received a message on Orkut to do some interviews with some agencies, but my mother wouldn’t let us. Until we got one that we thought was serious. ‘Mom, everything is right. Let’s see how it goes.’ This was the beginning of the holiday last year.
Brazil is a diverse country. You have to give value to all ethnicities, all races and not just to blacks. I’ve suffered prejudice and everything else. And I think we have to change the minds of the youth of today for the future so that this does not happen anymore. It is not because the person is black, Japanese, or Indian, it is less important than a white person.”
The mother

Ruth Ferreira Ana Nogueira

“I am 42 and I was born in São Luis, Maranhão (northeastern Brazil), I’ve been here for 24 years, and I’m a teacher in the public schools. I’m pardo (brown or mixed race), my hair is brown, and I say I am of African descent. I tell my students that we all come from the slave quarters, and I wanted to see the slave quarters where I came from. I try to redeem in them the value of our blood, our ancestors. I’m pardo, I have white blood, black blood and Indian blood; I am the fruit of Brazilian miscegenation. The girls’ father is black. I grew up hearing my mother say, ‘You should try to lighten the color (of your children)’. That weighed heavily on me. For a long time, I only dated white men until I met the girls’ father, a black man. I got pregnant when we were dating. I went to São Luis and told my parents. Then my mother said: ‘Why you didn’t go with what’s his name?’ that was white. ‘The girls will suffer prejudice, they will suffer this, they will suffer that.’ I understood that she wanted to protect her granddaughters in her own way. I was five months pregnant when we broke up and my parents helped me a lot. From the beginning, they loved their granddaughters with a passion. They learned that that mixture a perfect combination, which was beautiful. They learned to see black skin in a different way.


When they were born they were pretty ugly, horrible. After one, then two months they were beginning to look cute. I was a little annoyed because of their nappy hair. When they were 5 years old, took the two to the salon and said, ‘I want to do something [straightening] that is not very damaging…something light … something … just to tone their hair down a little.’ I was criticized a lot, but I always taught them concern themselves with beauty. I knew they were beautiful and I wanted to highlight this in them.
At 4 years old, they went to a private school. They were the only black girls and they were astonished at this. They didn’t want to go back. But we would talk and they resolved this amongst themselves. I also was very upset [with the racial prejudice against my daughters]. I went to school, talked to the teacher. We always worked in partnership. I was never quiet. Not even in my classroom did I let this happen.
They were born to shine, they are going to be someone, in one way or another because they’re so intelligent. This modeling thing disturbed their schooling a little, because they have always been very good students. I didn’t want them to be models. I saw that they were beautiful, that they had the profile, I saw everything, but I didn’t want to because it would disrupt the plan I had. I had plan A, I wanted that one would go into medicine and the other one, law. I knew that they would do whatever they wanted to do, but I’m encouraging them so that they know that they have to be somebody. They asked me to take them to the agency, I took them, but not because of my will. By the time they stepped foot in the agency, someone said: ‘I found the black girl for the runway.’ Because they needed…the market needed a black model. It seems that the black person does not believe that they have a potential and doesn’t go after their dream.”
To be continued in Part 2

Source: Correio Braziliense
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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