Fans of popular Bahian singer Léo Santana criticize absence of black women in Carnaval promo video



Note from BW of Brazil: OK, so the Carnaval season in Brazil officially ended a little over a week ago, but there were enough stories and controversies that took place to keep the discussion going for a little while longer.  The story featured today is actually from three weeks ago but as it has relevance to the topics covered on this blog, I thought it was worthy of sharing. Bahian Axé/Pagode singer Léo Santana has never been a topic of discussion on this blog, although his image did appear in a past story on the image of black male sexuality back in 2013. Santana made a name for himself with the group Parangolé and enjoyed national success in 2009 with the song “Rebolation”. An interesting fact about Santana and Parangolé is that they entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 2010 when more than 100,000 people participated in the choreography of their hit song during the Salvador Fest concert of 2010. Previously, the American group Black Eyed Peas performed a choreographed performance with 21,000 people in Chicago to honor television host Oprah Winfrey celebrating the 24th season of her television show. After the Carnaval of 2014, Santana embarked upon a successful solo career. 

Singer Léo Santana

But Santana appears in today’s post for a completely different reason. Representation, or lack thereof, according to what some of his fans noticed in a video promo the singer released of his performance in Salvador’s 2017 Carnaval festivities. Let’s first see what the controversy was about.

Singer Léo Santana in a still from a Carnaval promo video set to his song “Santinha”

Léo Santana fans criticize absence of black ‘little saints’ in video from Furdunço

To thank the audience that went to the Barra district on Sunday, singer published video that caused controversy in social networks

From the Newsroom of Correio 24 Horas

Shots of women featured in “Santinha” promo

Léo Santana’s performance during Furdunço on Sunday (February 19) led a crowd to Salvador’s Barra district. According to data from city hall, about 1 million people attended the event. To thank the audience, the pagoda singer divulged a video on Tuesday, February 21st, on his official Facebook page. “Gratitude, Salvador! Thousands of happy people, singing and dancing to the sound of the giant in Furdunço! No words to describe so much emotion!” he wrote in the caption.

Singer Léo Santana

The video, which is accompanied by the song “Santinha” (meaning ‘little saint), Léo’s hit for Carnival 2017, shows several “santinhas” in the crowd, but it attracted attention of web users for the absence of mulheres negras (black women). “There were only mulheres brancas (white women), Léo Santana?” “Funny. That’s not what I saw. What type of ridiculous montage is this?,” said a fan in the comments. More than a million people on the street are probably 99.9℅ black and they show half a dozen whites? A failure in my view!! And don’t come to me with that MiMiMi (whining),” wrote another.

Still from Santana promo video

In less than 24 hours, the Facebook publication registered about 5,000 curtidas (likes) and more than 390 shares. Despite the criticism, there were those who defended the singer. “And since when is Léo a cameraman? All right, the video shows mostly white women, but black women also appear and you have to stop this wave of blaming the artist for everything, remember that before him there is a team,” said one fan. Still others emphasized the success that the artist has been having in the summer. “Not only Carnival, but this year 2017 is yours,” said another.

Sought for comment, the artist’s spokesperson countered criticism, saying that Léo is black and does not distinguish people by their skin color.

Note from BW of Brazil: Now, for those you who may be new to this blog and may not understand why this story is being featured here, there are several things at play here. First is the continuous struggle of black representation during Carnaval in Salvador, Bahia, a city known for its black majority and being considered the center of black culture in Brazil. Every year during Salvador’s Carnaval we witness a sort of ‘Bahian Apartheid’ in which crowds are broken down into VIP type viewers and then everybody else in a display in which racial overtones are quite obvious. This doesn’t even take into consideration the second class status given to black performers who are routinely depreciated in terms of spotlight, media attention and sponsorships that whiter-skinned artists ALWAYS attain. The other issue here is how Brazil regularly seeks to present its whiter self in the media. A few years ago, this point was driven home when many people complained that the majority of contestants competing in Bahia’s Miss contest were white or near white. This in a state known as ‘Black Bahia‘.

Bahia’s power structure and media has long been controlled by a small white elite that continues a strangle hold on the state’s law, image and direction. As such, the complaint here would be that with such little control of anything in Bahia, at the minimum, people expect that prominent artists do their in part challenging white hegemonic control of the situation. But it seems that Santana wants no part of this, or if he does, he isn’t willing to create waves on the issue. It’s very easy for one to wash their hands of an issue by saying they don’t “distinguish people by their skin color”, but the point is that Brazil DOES and by participating in such discourse when one is a member of the oppressed group changes nothing. And what we see over and over is that many black men and women who have prominence in the media often choose to remain neutral on the issue, adapting an ideology that “we are all equal” in both their professional as well as their personal lives.

In one of the comments about Santana’s promo video, someone mentioned how Santana, as the artist, should not necessarily be held responsible for how his videos are recorded. That may or may not be true. There could in fact be a situation in which the artist’s management “advises” him on the best images to present to his public if he wants to continue ascending in his career. And if the artist wants to be successful at all costs, his being steered in certain directions could be a possibility. Another aspect of this issue is the company that a public figure keeps offstage. For example…


Translation of above February 22nd post by Liberal Feminism:

“Segregationism is the new black struggle: on the legend of the “palmiteiro

As good gossiping feminism has always done, today I found myself faced with a posting in a black feminist group about Léo Santana’s new girlfriend. Don’t know who he is? Ah, he’s the singer of an Axé band called Parangolé. Well, he’s dating a blonde and he’s black. When reading the comments I saw some funny things, saying that he ‘does not honor his race’ and that ‘blondes are trophies of black men that get rich’.”

Santana with his girlfriend Chelsea in 2013 (left) and current love Lorena last February.

I wonder how true that pursuit and image of success would be when we consider that many black women have added Santana to their list of prominent Afro-Brazilian men who choose white women in their personal lives. In the Facebook post by Feminismo Liberal, the writer clearly doesn’t make any sort of connection with the issue beyond pointing out her disagreement with black women who criticize Santana for his romantic choices, but the post serves to demonstrate the chatter his choice made. In 2013, Santana was involved in a highly publicized relationship with an American woman, Chelsea Rae, a blond. And currently, his new love is Lorena Improta, another blond. Now Santana’s choice is of course just that, his choice, but combined with his stance on the images presented in his video, what does this tell us? In the struggle for black representation, one either takes a stand on the issue or neutralizes him or herself. In Santana’s opting to ignore the issue with a tried and true response to the controversy, he is clearly showing which side of the fence on which he stands. 

Source: Correio 24 Horas

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


  1. Santana is a damn buffoon! He is helping to whitewash the image of Brazil. He looks like a self-hating clown. He gets NO respect from me!

  2. @ Kushite Prince: AGREED!!! It’s that so-called light skinned privilege where one is able to straddle the fence.

    @ BWOB: Just wanted to say I really enjoy your blog. It illustrates the global system of RWS and how all peoples of color, the world over are white washed and so in the thick of this heinous, dastardly and sinister system…it’s despicable. Yes, Leo Santana is a damn fool, but he is also a victim and a good victim at that as he has succumb to the insidious influence of his oppression. But as typical, and just like those from the past who had influence and chose to stand for nothing, his imminent decline will come, and we’ll see where the blonds are when he sufferd his downfall. As the old adage goes: the people you step on on your way up, are the same people you will see (re: need) on your way down.

  3. Right, all agreed. But this is not a problem of us black MEN, but of us, black PEOPLE…

    Having lived my whole life in Brazil I can assure you black women cannot be excused of this behavior that threatens our race more than anything else.

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