Does Carnaval have prejudice against black queens? Are we seeing a whitening process? More voices weigh in

São Paulo Carnaval featuring Sabrina Sato, Ana Hickmann and Gracyanne Barbosa
São Paulo Carnaval featuring Sabrina Sato, Ana Hickmann and Gracyanne Barbosa

Note from BW of Brazil: A few days ago we presented a rising concern that the participation of blacks, specifically black women, is slowly being diminished in Brazil’s world-renown Carnaval celebrations.  This is not to say that Afro-Brazilians have been phased out but many people have been making comments in recent years in general conversations and in social networks about this trend that they are noticing in comparison to historical black representation during the big show. A great piece by scholar Nei Lopes also pointed out the de-Africanization of Brazilian samba, the infectious, energetic rhythm most associated with Carnaval. Of course we know that the media will play this down as a symbol of more integration of the show but we also know that Brazil’s MO has been to never admit the existence of racism or black exclusion. And we cannot forget Brazil’s historic ideology of embranquecimento (whitening) to understand the full context of the accusations. One need only look at how apartheid functions in the black majority state of Bahia (here and here) to get an idea of the concerns people have in relation to the more celebrated Carnaval spectacles in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Below are just a few more of those voices. 

Transsexual says Carnival has prejudice against black queens

The dancer Bárbara Sheldon said that (samba) schools think that “a black woman is for being a dancer and is doesn’t serve for (being) Queen”

By Marcus Vinicius Pinto

Bárbara Sheldon
Bárbara Sheldon in 2013 requested financial help with silicone breasts that had exploded

Being a rainha de bacteria (queen of the drumbeat) of a samba school requires much rehearsal and a lot of samba no pé (samba dance)? Not always. For the dancer Bárbara Sheldon, dance teacher of Nanda Guimarães, queen of Parque Curicica, of the special series, the samba is very biased with black women.

The actress Cris Vianna is rainha of Imperatiz Leopoldinense
The actress Cris Vianna is rainha of Imperatiz Leopoldinense

“They think that the black woman is for being a passista (dancer) and doesn’t serve for queen,” said Sheldon, with a certain amount of exaggeration. “But before long she (will) overcome this prejudice. She will be among the greats,” he guaranteed.

Nanda Guimarães herself considers talk about prejudice against black women as exaggerated in this situation. “Each one conquers their space with time. I’m starting in the school and want to grow along with it,” she opined, without stating that she intends to soon arrive at a school of the special grouping.

Elle Roche of the Rosas de Ouro Samba School
Elle Roche of the Rosas de Ouro Samba School

And when she rejects the exaggeration of her friend, the transvestite Sheldon, Nanda is right. In special group, we have Juliana Alves in Tijuca, Raíssa de Oliveira in Beija-Flor, Evelyn Bastos, in Mangueira, and Cris Vianna, with Imperatriz. “They prefer the famous. But give a chance to those who frequent the community bankroll her costume, no,” accused the transvestite, made famous last year when his silicone burst inside a bus in Rio.

The model Renata Frisson, known as Mulher Melão (Melon Women), highlight of the Rio Grande school, goes further: she says that the real samba is indeed the black woman and the white women imitate (them). “They have the ginga (swagger) and the essence of samba, but no one will take space from anyone,” she said.

“The problem is that the best do not vulgarize themselves, they don’t come naked. Just look and see that this is true,” said Sheldon, without departing from the controversy. “I dream about being majesty of a school like this,” said Nanda Guimarães, in reference to little Parque Curicica.

Note from BW of Brazil: Speaking specifically of the situation in São Paulo, a viewer named Israel weighed in on what he’s seeing. 


In the São Paulo Carnival 2015 parade, we can see the profile of a people (who are) victim of embranquecimento (whitening), who seem conformed because, at least outline reactions of protest for the loss of their space in the party that founded still in the senzalas (slave quarters) maintained by slaveholders. They are being deliberately struck from their cultural activities, strongholds of the cultural training base of the black Brazilian people.

Observe, there are few blacks who are in their role as primary element, as protagonists of a party, so, they are increasingly in positions of subalternity, as in slavery, doing heavy duty services.

Israel 4

The perplexity goes beyond the nerve of a station, monopolizer, and a league that still says its independent, each with its monetary portion, trying to expand the eugenicist influence, extinguishing almost entirely the presence of blacks. On one side the schools began to be owned by the white business community, sustaining the framework, a sold league, negotiating rights of exclusivity to a station that has always been in the front of alienating exclusionary and racist actions, who in their commentators shamelessly excluded the black.

Paula Lima, minha preta (my black girl), a singer who is a reference in struggle, there was not her place, being the only black in the group, reporter Maria Julia was on the track doing the heavy duty work, as in the time of slavery. We blacks work and they take ownership of the successes.

Singer Paula Lima during commenting during Globo TV's Carnaval coverage
Singer Paula Lima during commenting during Globo TV’s Carnaval coverage

Really I couldn’t stand it, so much was the crap being spoken, the low level of knowledge, racist jokes, I remember a phrase of (samba singer) João Nogueira in his art “Nó na Madeira”- That samba is science and with consciousness. I only have patience that I get there … but I couldn’t overcome, I confess, it’s no good having any more patience.”

You see, even the bateria (percussion section) it’s increasingly difficult to see meus irmãos negros (my black brothers). Images like these will be colonizers of the argument that Brazil has been exterminating the black in its cultural base.

Israel comment in original Portuguese
Israel comment in original Portuguese


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


  1. Why a story about White Brazilian women in Carnival in SP? Like this is shocking or something. Now if a White Brazilian woman as made queen of Salvador’s Carnival NOW that would be a story/blog post, but not this.

    This is more “why aren’t BW everywhere in media” tripe.

    Answer –

    Cause you don’t own the media.

    • Anthony…good to hear from you…Of course we all know who owns the media. The point is simply to show what’s happening in Brazil. I hope no one is stupid enough to believe that simply exposing and sharing the news will change the situation. It’s simply a view from Brazil. And in terms of Salvador, it’s already been covered here as well. White women get most of the endorsements or prime time exposure there as well!

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