Note from BW of Brazil: Below is a critique of a Brazilian women’s magazine for women who plan to get married and want just the right hairstyle for their big day. The critique was sent to the Escreva Lola Escreva blog from a reader who was disgusted and disappointed when she picked up a magazine in hopes of finding a pretty hairstyle but hardly found any black women in the magazine and no hairstyles meant for black women who preferred to wear their hair in its natural texture. To add insult to injury, when she wrote the magazine to express her disappointment she received as response in which the makers of the magazine saw absolutely nothing wrong with this exclusion.
If you’ve followed this blog for any period of time you would already know that this is standard practice in Brazil’s print media and media in general. Afro-Brazilians simply don’t exist. Are you new to Black Women of Brazil and are not familiar with how things go down? Well, check out any number of our posts on whiteness and you’ll understand the reader’s frustration. But then again, if you live in any multi-racial country where non-whites are treated as if they don’t exist then you probably already understand. But here’s Vevila’s story below.
Bridal magazine disregards black brides
Vevila is getting married now in the middle of the year. Congratulations, Vevila! There’s only one problem: she is black and doesn’t straighten her hair. Apparently, there aren’t any hairstyles possible for those outside of the standard of beauty. She sent me this incredible story on her quest for a hairstyle for the day of her wedding. Seriously, you have to read it to believe it.
As I have already seen other times on your blog, today I want to talk about racism and share something that happened to me recently, but that was already born with the smell of old.
I’m getting married this summer and I am worried about my appearance as a bride on the expected day. In February, I went to the newsstand and bought the magazine Penteados para Noivas (Hairstyles for Brides), published by Alto Astral. All right so far, except that I had forgotten, momentarily, a fundamental thing: I’m black and I have cabelo crespo (curly/kinky hair).
It took me a long time to accept my hair (1), but this fight has rendered me incredible fruits. Today my hair is healthy and it is no longer suffering from the effects of super aggressive chemicals, and I feel much more confident, beautiful and peaceful with my appearance. At a certain time I considered myself better or more enlightened than other women who preferred to wear their hair straightened or relaxed; however, I understand that I came to the clarification that this needs to be a conscious choice, not an imposition.
With this thought, I found it absurd the attitude of some hairdressers who said they need to “do an escova (progressive blow dry treatment) and then apply setting products and only then make beautiful curls with babyliss” (photo above) for me to be beautiful on my wedding day. What a shame, my hair already has curls! What’s the point? I love my hair as it is! And then I went after alternatives and ended up buying this magazine.
Only I did not count on one thing: I had forgotten for a moment that these publications are not for me. It’s very rare to see black women in women’s magazines, and extremely rare to see cabelo crespo in fashion editorials and publications. I am not represented by them.
I opened the magazine, and in 67 pages and I didn’t find even one hairstyle made for cabelo crespo. Throughout those 67 pages, I found four pictures of black models, all in tiny sizes (slightly larger than a photo 3 x 4), where there was nothing new and even if there were, it was impossible to observe the details. I wondered: am I the only black woman who will get married in Brazil this year? Gee, then my marriage should come out in the newspaper (and I am not even considering the curious fact that I am marrying a white man – maybe I should)!
And it doesn’t stop there. There were countless blonde and redhead models in huge, detailed photos, many with flowing, straight or straightened hair. In the pages dedicated to children, there was not one black child. White children are more beautiful, perhaps? No, they are not. But this was what this magazine wanted to make me believe.
I was, for a moment, thinking I was neurotic. “I’m not exaggerating, am I?”;
“Is this really not like this?” “Do I need to straighten my hair?”
No, I’m not neurotic. I’m offended, and frankly, I’m right.
With this sense of outrage, anger and sadness, I sent a complaint (explaining exactly what I saw in the magazine and that I described here) to the editor’s e-mail and Facebook profile. A week later, this response arrived in my inbox:
“We have forwarded your complaint to the team that produced the magazine, following the clarification of your complaint.
‘As the reader (you) did not specify the edition of the magazine, we assume that was #06, which was released in January.
We analyzed our content and found nothing wrong. From what we understand, your questioning referred to the skin color of the models and not the hairstyles in themselves, which is the theme of the magazine.
Our team, from the moment of elaborating on the magazine to choosing the pictures, makes sure that all hair types and styles are in the issue, from liso (straight) to crespo (kinky/curly), regardless of the model’s skin color.
In the magazine, as you can see, it has options for straight, wavy, curly, kinky/curly, short, medium and long. That is, no bride is in danger of running out of options.
In relation to blondes and redheads, these tones end up appearing in the magazine to leave the resulting hairstyle more evident to the reader, since dark hair, after taking a picture, ends up losing some of the details of the hairstyle, becoming difficult to visualize.
Besides this, the stock photos that we work with don’t offer many options for black models, especially with bridal hairstyles. Those that they do offer are not beautiful.’
This was the exact response from the company. Nothing more, nothing less, in the way it arrived in my inbox. THEY ARE NOT BEAUTIFUL. WE DIDN’T FIND ANYTHING WRONG. I was so shocked and disgusted that I lost the appetite. Sincerely, a standard, lying, response; one of those in which the company promises that it will take the complaint into consideration for future editions would have been easier to swallow. But this was not. Do you know why?
It’s because this message is one of the clearest statements of racism in Brazil. I can even imagine it… it was written by someone who does not even understand my complaint, that must have even thought I was exaggerating and couldn’t see the slightest relationship between the skin color of the models (“which is not the focus of the magazine”) and the problem representation of a significant portion of Brazilian society. This person does not see any awkwardness in placing only blonde and redhead models in a magazine about hair and to top it off, not putting other black women and other women with cabelo crespo in the magazine because of the thought that “there is no market for them” and that they “are not pretty” – – since black corresponds to the poor in our country. How can you expect them to see anything wrong in a publication that was created and developed on this so deeply ingrained belief? And what hurts the most and is most shocking is the inability to see where the error is.
We must be clear that this is not only stupid, it is not only superficial, it’s not only silly prejudice and it’s not only a sign that the fashion is outdated. Before being frivolous or superficial, fashion is an effective instrument of production and reproduction of social relations, because it deals with a very strong element of thought and human relations: the aesthetic, the beautiful. When a fashion editorial says that the black woman is not beautiful, cabelo crespo is not “easy” or aesthetically acceptable, this editorial is reproducing for the world a discourse that strengthens and cements and becomes fuel for the racism that remains naturalized in our society.
I didn’t have the stomach to respond, nor do I think that I will win something by keeping myself in this discussion with the company. I don’t hope for anything from a company that had the courage to give me such a truculent response. My objective with this complaint is to bring up the subject and cause discomfort, so that we are able to realize, consciously, how these ideas are cemented in our midst, day after day. And the more it’s not talked about the more they make this a natural thing, and this is a immense danger.
I’m still looking for hairstyles for black brides, because I want to be beautiful and stunning on my wedding day. I see nothing wrong with that. I am a bride just like others, and have the same desires as other – negras (black women), brancas (white women), mestiças (women of mixed race) – who are on this path. But now I know that it will not be easy to understand and explain to others the reasons for which my search will have to happen in other media and in other terms. This reason is the great taboo, that that one cannot name, whose existence we deny daily, the theme that most causes us discomfort: RACISM. And I have to find myself out of the mainstream because I am not accepted, sincerely, it’s a great sadness.
Meanwhile, the French magazine Numéro decided to make a tribute to Africa … and, therefore, darkened a blonde, white model. Definitely, the media has to stop being racist and open space for all kinds of beauty. Of which there are many.
Source: Escreva Lola Escreva
1. This is a common struggle for many black Brazilian women. But things are slowly evolving. For example, see here, here, here or here.
Why not seek to develop a really stunning, glossy-paged, colour magazine, both for Internet and Print, in Portuguese, Spanish and English editions — for black women of Brasil? Lots of ads, lots of stories about established and up-and-coming black, petra, mulatta women? As an author, I know the good combined value of print and photos, or camera ‘art.’ I see mullata, also spelled mulatta. . . .
Hi, thanks to Black Women of Brazil, am really familiar with how backwards Brazil is.
RACISM is really evil, its about having deep hate for people, that one does not even know. And as a black man, I have seen RACISM from school to the work place Here in UK. I just want to say that black women and women of mixed race in Brazil are really beautiful I would love to marred one of them…
one love you, keep doing the good job