Note from BW of Brazil: This is the first of two pieces today that discuss the influence and effects of a popular television host that Brazilians know as simply Xuxa on the racial concepts and self-esteem of black women. It is a topic that has been touched upon previously here and has been re-ignited recently after the popular TV personality was seen wearing an anti-racism t-shirt. Not that wearing an anti-racism t-shirt isn’t a good idea, but often times actions speak louder than words!
Xuxa and The Paquitas: When I discovered racism!
By Shirley Mare
When I say I don’t like Xuxa, people look at me with a look of astonishment. But why don’t you like her? So, I don’t like her because she is racist! Then people soon come with the argument that Xuxa dated Pelé. Ok! Slaveholders went to bed with the slaves, and this did not make them less slave holders. Nor less racist, anyway, every time I go into this matter I’d rather shut up and let the person think they convinced me. But I will never change my mind in this regards. I was born in 1990 and from my birth until when I turned fifteen, the ‘Rainha of the Baixinhos’ (queen of the little ones) hosted Xou da Xuxa, Xuxa Star, Paradão da Xuxa, Programa Xuxa, Xuxa Park, Xuxa Hits and Planeta Xuxa. There is no denying that such a Maria das Graças (Mendeghel, aka Xuxa) influenced a generation. She captured the multitudes and made many little people cry with her songs. I don’t know anyone who was born at the end of the 70s, 80s and 90s that has not already dreamed of meeting Ms. Xuxa. Who doesn’t remember the Paquitas? White, beautiful, blond, thin and with their light-colored eyes! Remember that chubby, half awkward Paquita? Oh, poor memory of yours! Remember the black Paquitas, with their cabelos blacks (afros)? You don’t remember?
So this is literally the heart of the matter. There has never been a black Paquita. There has never been a chubby Paquita. There was never a Paquita outside of the aesthetic standards of Ariel descent. And how couldn’t think that the “Rainha dos Baixinhos” is racist? Brazil is a country where the majority of the population is black. A standard has been established in which non-blonde was unacceptable. I remember when I was very young. In the late 90s, we had a selection process to choose new Paquitas. I asked my mother why among them there was no equal to me.
I didn’t understand ethnic concepts yet. I just knew I would never fit into the required standard. That was a really traumatic day. It was the first time I came across the weight of prejudice. So I ask you: what is the reason that there has never been a black Paquita? If we, blacks, were also her public, why not include us? Could it be that a black Paquita would have led to her demise? Would having black girls in that group have soiled the angelic image of those girls? Or was it that there was no black girl at her height?
See this matter that came out in the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper back in March of 1995:
Rio student tries to become the first black Paquita
‘I feel fine among blondes,’ says Michele Martins
By Mauricio Stycer
Student Michele Martins has a chance in the next few days of breaking an old taboo of Brazilian television: she could be chosen as the first black Paquita of host Xuxa’s program.
To date, Xuxa has only surrounded herself with assistants as blond as she.
More than 2,500 girls have signed up to compete for a handful of places. The first selection made it 120. In the second, remained 20. Next week, the winners will be announced.
“I feel fine among many blondes,” says Michele, 16.
She thinks there has never been a black paquita for lack of initiative. “There isn’t any prejudice of Xuxa. Girls haven’t applied,” she says.
The wave of political correctness reaches A Próxima Vítima, a novela (soap opera) by Silvio de Abreu that debuted on Globo TV. Among the protagonists, there is a black middle class family, made up of Cleber (Antonio Pitanga), his wife Fátima (Zezé Motta), and his children Sidney (Norton Nascimento), Jefferson (Lui Mendes) and Patrícia (Camila Pitanga).
Not coincidentally, the dream of the student Patrícia is to be a model.
I was too young to remember the social scenario of that era, but this implies that the fact that there were no black Paquitas was already generating discomfort. In the midst of 2,500 girls, there wasn’t a black girl good enough to make the team. Make no mistake: the girl that didn’t apply, the blame was all theirs. All of this because of their “lack of initiative”. And what about the perspective of Folha de S. Paulo, who called the inclusion of blacks in TV a “wave of political correctness”?
To finalize this post, I want to send a kiss to my mom, my dad and a kiss especially to you, Xuxa, that proved that racism is a characteristic of your personality!
Xuxa and the Paquitas
Note from BW of Brazil: The whole Xuxa and the Paquitas thing will be discussed more in-depth in the next post, but I wanted to make a note of Michele Martin’s comment that was basically designed to skirt the racial issue in typical Brazilian fashion. To be fair, Michele was only 16 at the time she made the comment and as many Afro-Brazilians are socialized to believe racism doesn’t exist in Brazil, she could truly have believed what she said. On the other hand, it reminds me of a similar situation that recently happened to an athlete who was the only black man on Brazil’s men’s gymnastics team. After being humiliated by his (would be) white teammates, the young gymnast was allowed to say very little on the issue and was quick to forgive his teammates and distance himself from any controversy. Could it be that in both cases the black people involved didn’t want to or were warned not make any comments that could create waves and possibly damage their own prospects of future success? There’s no way to know for sure but it wouldn’t be surprising. In Martins’ case, it didn’t matter anyway. Xuxa’s show continued with its all-white Paquitas.
Source: Shirley Mare