Note from BW of Brazil: Although this blog is dedicated to sharing the achievements and struggles of Brazilians of visible African descent with a focus on bringing more attention to black women, sometimes one must ask if certain forms of attention are actually necessary and ponder the repercussions of such attention. From time to time, someone makes a question of the appearances of certain women on this blog and the image they represent. While the intent here is to give some much needed exposure to black Brazilian women, it is also true that in order for those not familiar with the situation to know the reasons for the existence of this blog, it is necessary to show a well-rounded representation of different types of black Brazilian women and girls, which is the goal. The story below is a good example.
Due to the extreme neglect of the existence of black women and girls in Brazilian society in terms of image and representation, any good news should be divulged. But at the same time, what is the cost? Here we have an eight-year old girl who has won all sorts of “little Miss” competitions, including the right to represent the country in the international competition this month. Although it appears clear from the article that this is yet another area where visibly black girls are excluded from Brazil’s imposed European aesthetic standards and the victory seems to be something that should be celebrated, what is the other side?
On the one hand, in a country where the ideal of “embranquecimento (whitening)” and invisibility often strips children (and adults) of a positive racial identity and often leads to an identification and preference for whiteness, seeing a young girl who sees herself as a black, is successful as a black girl and doesn’t let society’s imposed black invisibility (for example, see here, here and here) impede her from success should definitely be celebrated. But on the other hand, what ideals will this little girl attain from a contest that introduces and rewards an artificial concept of beauty (makeup, fake nails, extravagant dresses, etc)? Our society consistently introduces concepts and desirability of acceptance/popularity of things that are not always healthy while manufacturing and promoting these ideals and normalizing them as positive. But this is not always true and is not always the case. With this is mind, check out the story feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.
She was featured in the pages the Folha de Niterói newspaper earlier this year when she won the Miss Princess of the Rio de Janeiro State 2012, at an event at the Teatro Princesa Isabel in Copacabana. And the spotlight is once again on the beauty, grace and congeniality of the little girl from Niterói (state of Rio de Janeiro) Maria Victórya Manzi de Santanna, only eight years old, who won the Little Miss Universe Brasil 2013 (the Brazilian regional of Miss Universe), held in Curitiba, Paraná (southern Brazil).
With this achievement, Maria Victórya became Brazil’s representative in the international contest for the title of Little Miss Universe, which will take place this month in Mexico. As a prize, the girl received registration in the international competition whose registration fee is R$3,000 reais (about US$1,500 dollars). According to her parents, the prize for the Little Miss Universe still has not been disclosed.
“It is a huge thrill; a wonderful dream not only for her and the family, which vibrates with joy with every win. Nothing was easy: we faced very strong competition, the physical distance of supporters and homesickness. Even now she still doesn’t believe how far she’s come,” says her mother, nurse Ana Carolina Manzi of Santanna, 33. “My plans now are just getting ready to win the international competition and to fulfill my responsibility of scheduling events like Miss Brazil’, ensures Maria, always in a good mood.
Maria’s father, physiotherapist Maurício de Sant’anna, 34, never imagined his daughter would be interested in this career. “Besides the busy schedule, I must accompany her commitments and reinforce the value of studies in any profession that she pursues,” he says.
He laments the fact that the girl does not have sponsors, because the dream of being a “Miss” is very expensive. “Unfortunately, the expenses are high accommodations, airfare and making the dresses, among other things.”
A 3rd grade student of elementary school at Ensino Fundamental do Educandário Pio XII, Maria Victórya began ‘modeling’ by chance taking pictures by invitation for her birthday when the hosts of party requested her image to publicize their business. The following week, her image was printed on several city buses. But her dream of becoming “Miss” began when Maria watched the Record TV network show Programa do Gugu, which promoted a child beauty pageant child, and the girl asked her mother to enter her in the contest.
After having participated in eight contests and claiming 1st place in five of them, the girl was elected Mini Miss of Niterói and Mini Miss of the state of Rio de Janeiro in 2012. In Curitiba she went on to win the title of Mini Miss Brasil in March.
But those who think that life of a Little Miss is only spotlight and walkways are deceiving themselves. “I don’t like missing school. But sometimes you have to,” explains the 3rd grader who is also a fan of the former Miss Universe, Leila Lopes.
For a child psychologist Solange Wertman, it’s also important to be careful with the premature process of making a child into an adult. “It is important not to remove the child from a child’s universe,” she says.
No black girl has ever won
“The child competition doesn’t have the same burden of the adult version,” says Susana Cardoso, 38, director of the state stage of Miss Universe. For her, with 12 years of experience in beauty pageants, the children’s version of the contest is more playful. “We try to maintain the atmosphere of fun, without much tension and competition,” she explains. The requisites are assessed differently.
“What counts is not height, weight, measurements, but the secure attitude on the catwalk,” explains the expert, who doesn’t remember seeing a black child win the international competition. “The black girls only started to participate a little more than 10 years ago,” she claimed.
At eight years old, she’s already wearing makeup, false nails and miniature high heels.
“All this is a character created for the contest, but at home she doesn’t stop having a normal life of a child,” explains her paternal grandmother, Mary Auxiliadora, who is a retired Portuguese teacher.
The girl is not different from the other little girls who take on a more mature appearance: she likes to play house and with dolls. Maria didn’t believe she would have chances to win because when she came to the event, she saw “only blonde girls with blue eyes.”
Early on, Maria already had an idea of the existence of stereotypes in society, which valued the standard European aesthetic. Because of this, she is a great admirer of Leila Lopes, the Angolan woman who won Miss Universe in 2011 and is black like her. According to Maria Victórya’s family, Leila saw photos of her fan over the internet and said she wants to meet the girl when she comes back to Brazil. Lopes was crowned Miss Universe in September of 2011 in São Paulo.
It is her mother who prepares Maria’s hair as she hates chapinha (flat curling iron) and prefers to take care of her hair in a more natural way, without straightening.
“It will be very important this meeting (with Lopes) and we’re looking forward to Mary Victórya also being the first black girl to win the children’s category of an international beauty contest,” adds Ana Carolina.