Note from BW of Brazil: It goes without saying that the 2017 edition of Globo TV’s Carnaval poster girl, the Globeleza, has caused quite a stir on the internet. Many positive, some simply surprised and some negative. As suggested by Guilherme Rodrigues’s article, “New Globeleza divides opinions on social networks: ‘pseudo-politically correct discourse'”.
My own findings on the topic have been similar to those of Rodrigues. His article continued citing a few comments that summed up much of what people were saying online:
“In social networks, some internet users praised the change and others criticized it. ‘Until what end will they make the Globeleza commercial showing the cultures of Brazil and not exposing the Brazilian woman,’ said one guy on Twitter.
‘Is it my impression or is Globo trying to adopt a pseudo-politically correct discourse with this new Globeleza? Will it stick?’ asked another. ‘My God, Globeleza 2017 is wearing clothes! What kind of a crazy year is this?’ a third joked.”
Of course, if you’re not Brazilian or are not familiar with Brazilian culture, you may know what all the fuss is about. Be sure to check out some of this blog’s past articles on the Globeleza so you can get a hint of why the 2017 edition is causing so much commotion. Now to be clear, today’s piece, like the one published when the new Globeleza commercial debuted, dos not represent the views of all black Brazilian women. There are probably hundreds of thousands out there who had no problem with past images of the near completely nude black woman (“mulata”, for many) sambando (dancing samba) into millions of living rooms every year. But others are a little more critical on the issue.
If you’ve read any of the material on this blog, you will note how many writers describe how the image of the Globeleza and the stereotype of the “mulata” in general has affected their self-image and the image of Afro-Brazilian women as a whole. According to such discourse, if a woman of visible African ancestry is attractive, she was born to be/play the role of “mulata”. It is the figure of the mulata that Brazil believes is made for sex as the saying “white woman for marriage, mulata for fornication, black woman for work” reminds us. It is this image that leads people to mistake black female scientists for Carnaval dancers. Or that a woman would need to “use her ‘black sexuality’ to move up in life”. Or mistake a legal adviser for a prostitute or her own honeymoon. Or cause the mayor of Rio to tell a woman that “she’ll do ‘a lot of f*cking’ in her new apartment”.
These are real life examples, but time and time again we see the media re-enforce these ideas. For example, throughout her 36-year career on television, actress Solange Couto counted up playing maids on television 25 times. Then we have former Globeleza girl Aline Prado, whose first film role in the 2016 film O Último Virgem (The Last Virgin) she played a prostitute. Similarly, passista (Carnaval dancer) Camila Silva made her debut as an actress in the current running novela Dois Irmãos, also portraying a prostitute. And this “place” is not just reserved for newer actresses such as Prado or Silva, or even the case of Couto, who, while being well-known, has never been considered a top actress. This isn’t the case of longtime actress Zezé Motta. Earning her place as one of Brazil’s most important black actresses over the course of her 48-year career, in the 2014 novela Boogie Oogie, Motta was still cast as a maid. On her role in that novela, in which her character would only open doors and serve coffee, Motta reveals how she fell into a state of depression.
Yes, today, more and more black women of Brazil seek to have a wider array of possibilities for their lives than the Carnaval mulata or the maid and they would like that people imagine them to be able fill other roles in life than these long-held stereotypical positions. Keep these thoughts in mind as you read today’s piece by Juliana Luna.
Globeleza 2017, a new perspective on the Carnival – and not just for us, black women
Globeleza was constituted through a dominating, oppressive and racist perspective. Why does only the “mulata” of Globo TV represent the Carnival? And why was she invisible the rest of the year?
By Juliana Luna
“I’m 30 years old and I spent most of my childhood outside the country. When I was 15, after moving to Brazil at 13, I understood the cultural codes that the media communicated through TV. I’m black. My skin is considered “light”. Of the “Globeleza type”.
Within the popular imagination, the stigma of Globeleza always followed me…And I tried to understand why. My ethnic-cultural identity was still evolving from references found in this tangle of information that is absorbed into the daily life of a black adolescent. At 16 I already wore cabelo natural (natural hair). Black power (afro). And I got a lot of criticism on the street, I couldn’t get a job because I didn’t meet the required standards and despite my abilities and interest in learning, I did not have many opportunities. Globeleza was, without a doubt, an opportunity. As if it were something to dream about. A place in the sun.
I’m a dancer. At the time I studied Dance at UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro). As soon as I started dancing at family parties, events, balls…I always heard: You could sign up for Globeleza! You samba so well! It gave me hope.
Globeleza was a way of being beautiful. Accepted. Shine with the support of society. In my young mind, it was only there was it possible not to be invisible.Was that where my body would be accepted? Would my hair be celebrated? Would my skin be honored? Was this really a real place? Why didn’t I see myself in any other corner? Was anyplace mine?
What I have never been told is that this place in the sun was constituted through a dominator’s lens. Oppressive. Racist. And I only understood the distasteful thing that this meant years later.
It was an optic that allows abuse, encourages rape and bodily objectification, and only reinforces the stereotype that we black women are really just a sexual fantasy that pervades the imaginary of this sexist society with a slave-like mentality.
I believe that this is not a personal story. How many teenagers have had this same idea? They agreed to be in this place because it seemed like it was their place in the sun? Why did only the Globo “mulata” represent Carnival? And why was she invisible the rest of the year?
All these questions were not in my head at the time. We never learned to question. We learned to accept. According to the oppressor, we don’t deserve much after all. And because of this these places in the sun were so seductive. So the compliments: “Wow, you look like Globeleza!” were seen as hope in the search for acceptance and visibility in society.
The glitterized nudity was simply the only way to be “valued” according to the media. For years, we black women have been treated as sex objects. Really. I remember not being formally introduced to the family of a boy I loved and with whom I already had a relationship. And I remember the pain it caused me. Figures like Globeleza were used to reinforce the conviction that our body was only valid there. Naked. Exposed. Exploited to amuse and seduce the observer. And even so…within the standards imposed by them. Pele clara, cabelo exótico, longilínea, magra, com curvas…(Light skin, exotic hair, longilineal, thin, with curves…)
The culture of Carnival in Globo was summed up to this event. Who will the Globeleza this year? There was a national expectation to put another body in the lions’ arena. And what happens in the case of the beautiful Nayara Justino, who was rejected because her skin was too dark? Besides being exposed, naked and objectified…she was rejected for not fitting into this cruel imaginary. How does she feel today?
Globeleza is a character that exposed this place. It served us to question the cruelty in this figure. And it served to make the world see how macho and racist our country can be. And in 2017 we finally changed the perspective. Thanks to movements for women’s rights, diversity in the media, retraction of our country in order to contemplate the complexity and cultural multiplicity of our people.
Last year, Djamila Ribeiro and Stephanie Ribeiro published in AzMina magazine a text in which they asked for the end of Globeleza. “We don’t accept having our identity and humanity denied by those who still believe that our only place is that connected to the exploitation of our body.”
We have a Carnival vignette where a black woman is portrayed dressed in various colorful and lush costumes, happy to be able to do her work in an full way. Dancing alongside a white woman also dressed in creative costumes, cheerful white and black men accompanying them and popular Brazilian dances. We have represented in those 37 seconds: Brazilian Carnival.
What has changed?
It changed so that from now on, a 16 year old will be able to see that dancing as Globeleza is a job that doesn’t expose her body in a cruel way. Everyone involved is doing their job. No stereotype. You only see professionals performing their duties with great competence. And I keep asking myself: is not this how it should be? Should opportunities not exist and be the same so that all express their professionalism without exotification and moral exposure?
We started 2017 with positive changes at least when it comes to Carnival.
About the author Juliana Luna
Luna is a communications strategist, urban articulator, artist, actress and cultural ambassador. A native of Rio de Janeiro. She studied dance at UFRJ and at the Germaul Barnes Dance company in NYC. She currently lives between the United States and Brazil and travels the world creating shared experiences for people of all walks of life. Her gifts are: intuition, ancestral wisdom, knowledge by global experience and the art of turbans. In May 2015, she was invited to a reconnection trip with her ancestral roots. Through a DNA test, she discovered that her ancestors came from Nigeria, from the Yoruba ethnic group. For over 5 years, she has been teaching people, especially women, to make fabric wrappings on their head; in African style. Not long ago she realized that this makes perfect sense. Everything is connected. She lives to deepen her ties between Brazil and Nigeria. And this is just the beginning of the journey.