Note from BW of Brazil: Ya know, realistically, I think Afro-Brazilian women should simply stop competing in Brazil’s beauty contests. I mean, year after year it’s always the same thing. Brazil always claims to have pride in its diversity of phenotypes but every year, in national as well as state competitions, the women with the closest proximations to a European standard are always the dominant look in these contests. Now, some may argue that last year was different and signaled a great change and an acceptance of more non-white women; after all, a record six black women competed in the 2016 Miss Brasil competition, including the eventual winner, Raissa Santana representing the state of Paraná. In reality, I see last year as just a token show of diversity as if attempting to silence complaints about the overwhelming whiteness of these pageants. I’ll definitely be looking at the 2017 Miss Brasil to confirm my theory.
If the recent contest of the northeastern state of Ceará is any indication, things will be back to the norm (of whiteness) this year. Sure there was a black girl that finished in the top 5, but most of the candidates and the winner were white or pretty close to it (what many would define as Latina).
Ceará’s competition is pretty equal to that of other states of the northeast and this is significant because this is the region of Brazil where more people define themselves as preto e pardo (black and brown). But even in the states with the larger percentages of brown skin, it is the white skin that continues to be over-represented in the contests. According to the 2012 census, for example, in the state of Ceará, nearly 68% of the population defined itself as black (preto + pardo). In most of the state competitions, we consistently see a few black girls thrown in a mix of 20-25 girls who would be considered white Brazil. I don’t know what you see in the photos of above, I don’t see much “diversity” at all. In my view, the 2014 Miss Black Power Brasil had the right idea. Do your own thing!
Black women of the northeast: Gabrielly Louise is one of the 5 most beautiful women in Ceará
Courtesy of Mundo Negro
Finally, black women have discovered that beauty pageants are also for them and we see more dark faces and cabelos crespos (kinky/curly hair) at events throughout Brazil.
Our collaborator, the fashion designer from Curitiba, Luiz Mendonça, interviewed Gabrielly Louise, the Missa Messejana (see note one) 2017 who loves to orient other black women to appreciate their beauty. “I want to get through to them and I went through the same thing, and I fought to be recognized the way I am,” says Louise, who came in fifth in the Miss Ceará contest this year.
Have you always dreamed of being a Miss?
No. I never had the dream of being a Miss. I always found something very superficial, it praised beauty alone, there was nothing that caught my attention. But over time the concept has changed and more and more the miss world has been present in my social networks, friends becoming misses…And for fun I decided to participate in a contest in my neighborhood in which I came in second place. But an invitation came up that left me very motivated to take a deeper step in this Miss environment.
After the contest, one of the organizers was watching and invited me to participate in Miss Ceará. I confess I was very hesitant because I didn’t know anything about the Miss world. But I accepted, and I dedicated myself to the max so could to learn what it takes to be a Miss.
Are you aware that your image is a reference for black girls and young women?
I’m don’t have much consciousness. I even find myself surprised when some girls come to talk privately, complimenting me, asking me for a little attention. But I love these messages, they motivate me more and more, especially when they are black.
I’ve already felt very excluded and I know how some girls feel. I want to pass on to them that I went through the same thing, and I fought to be recognized the way I am.
Have you ever been a victim of prejudice? How did you deal with the situation?
Yes. As a child, I suffered a lot with nicknames at school. But I never wanted to change my look or my personality no matter how hurt I was. When I managed to fulfill a wish that I had at times, that was to enter the fashion world. They were able to LOOK at me in another way, as an icon of a black woman, but when I entered the competition to be Miss Ceará I got scared, received criticism and many messages of racism, it made me sad and amazed by the way people talked and hid. I also received lots of compliments and messages of strength, which would make me leave all of the trembling to the side and stay focused on my goal.
How was the experience in representing your city in the Miss Ceará?
The experience was incredible participating in Miss Ceará, I felt feelings that I didn’t know. I met wonderful people. And for me, it was very worthwhile, because I went further than I expected and I feel fulfilled, for the first time I feel victorious!
What are your references of beauty?
I could say Beyoncé, because I really like the artist, person and the ideas she has, but for me every woman who is owner of herself, who stands firm in front of any situation, creates an image that she is not, and she goes there and show that they are wrong, to emphasize again black women because the daily struggles are constant.
Source: Mundo Negro
- Messejana is a middle-class district and neighborhood in Fortaleza, the capital city of Ceará in Brazil’s northeastern region.