Note from BBT: Another story from the vault. The origins of today’s post actually go back to last July of last year and even though I never got around to posting it at the time, I wanted to eventually publish it because of shows, once again, how things can change when there are influential black people in positions where they can provoke change in some way.
I haven’t talked about this recently, but in the BBT archives, there are numerous stories that discuss the whiteness of Brazil’s magazine stands. In all of my years visiting and living in Brazil, going to a magazine stand and seeing a barrage of white faces on the covers was pretty much the norm. About as normal as it was to see the dominance of white faces on television. In the US, this invisibility of black faces was somewhat made up, to a certain degree, by the existence of a number of magazines that targeted the black community.
In the 90s and early 2000s, there were numerous magazines that I would thumb through whenever I stopped at a magazine stand that featured black faces, black people, black issues and black narratives. Even if these magazines were very much commercial, at least they existed. There were Ebony, Essence, Vibe, Jet, The Source, Sister 2 Sister and numerous others. There were even magazines such as King and Smooth for the brothas who liked to slobber over gorgeous black and Latina women in skimpy apparel in suggestive poses.
In Brazil, although there have been several attempts to release and maintain black-oriented magazines, only one has really stood the test of time, Raça Brasil, and in recent years, that magazine has been experiencing some hard times. With print media in general taking a beating, most people consume such content online and, in many ways, through websites, blogs and videos, black Brazilians are finding more representation than they’ve ever had.
Although things haven’t changed drastically on newsstands, there has been some slow progress, at least compared to the previous two decades and realistically, since the beginning of print media in Brazil. So with that in mind, seeing a choice of three young black men grace the cover of the country’s top fashion magazine, GQ Brasil, was a big deal. In some ways, it’s still not as big a deal as it could have been. For the July/August issue from 2020, you could choose from three different covers of the same issue, with three different black men making moves in society. That’s not the same as, say, having three different black men on the covers for three straight months. “Hey, what do you guys want?!?”, I can hear someone asking. Well, when we consider that the norm is seeing white men and white women on monthly magazine covers 8-12 straight covers per year, I wonder why anyone would complain about seeing three straight months of black men or women on these covers.
Of the three black men featured, I knew of two them for some time, while I learned of the third due to a matter that I often discuss here. Yuri Marçal is one of number rising black comedians who jumped on the new popularity of stand-up comedy a few years back. I like Marçal and think he’s important because he often says things that many black Brazilians simply wouldn’t say publicly. He boldly rejected an offer to make a commercial for the supercenter Carrefour during the controversy surrounding the violent murder of a black man in one of the store’s units.
Marçal is also one of the few black Brazilian men I have ever heard openly state that he only dates black women. If you’ve followed my coverage of the whole discussion of palmitagem in Brazil (referring to the predilection of so many black Brazilians choosing white partners), you know that this is a pretty radical stance (for a black Brazilian man).
I met the social activist/entrepreneur Rene Silva back in 2014 at a meeting in Rio. The Rio native made a name for himself with his coverage of Military Police occupation of Rio’s favela slums. By 2015, Silva’s newspaper Voz das Comunidades had been distributed to thousands of residents while his internet page was clocking millions of views. Silva was gaining attention and fame outside of Brazil’s borders leading Forbes magazine to call him an “example of a team that is reinventing the country”. By 2018, Silva was chosen as one of the MIPAD’s Most Influential People of African Descent in the world.
Nowadays, so many new music artists are popping up that I haven’t even tried to keep up with them. Often times, an up and coming artist has already blown up in his ‘hood and been viewed millions of times of YouTube before I even learn of their existence. This applies to the rapper Orochi. How did I become aware of him? He was the latest black entertainer to be called out black Brazilian social networks after people learned of his relatonship with a white girl. In a verse form one of the rapper’s songs, he exalted black women, so fans saw it as a contradiction to see him booed up with a branca. In today’s times of growing demands for black representation, black power and black money, the question of swirling is slowly becoming the new battlefield in black Brazil. One of these days I will return to this ever turning topic again.
For now, the story below features the young lady who was responsible for making two of the three GQ Brasil magazine covers happen. As I said, if black folks want change, they have to be in positions to make change happen or create it themselves. These days in Brazil, this is becoming more and more common.
Yuri Marçal, Rene Silva and Orochi are on the cover of GQ Brasil magazine July/August edition.
The three have a history of victory and all of them shared a little of themselves in this issue.
“It’s practically impossible to know when Yuri Marçal (@oyurimarcal) is being ironic. ‘Only my best friend knows’. This way the comedian speaks truths that Brazil needs to hear. Yuri is the third cover of #GQJulyAugust, which is available in digital version, through the Globo+ app and arrived at newsstands on July 24.
A black boy, poor and living in one of the most feared favelas in Rio de Janeiro created a newspaper, the Voz das Comunidades (Voice of Communities) (@vozdascomunidades). Five years later he became known worldwide for covering the occupation of Complexo do Alemão. Rene Silva (@renesilva) is our cover of #GQJulhoAgosto with two other great representatives of black youth who struggle to change the country: “If we invest in community communication, we will discover a new Brazil that we don’t know”.
Orochi (@orochi) is the rap phenomenon that accumulated more than 3 million followers and streaming records without the involvement of major labels. Since winning the National Freestyle Championship at the age of 15, he has been gaining respect and fans. Today, at 21, he is also on the cover of the #GQJulyAugust issue, showing that the favela won: “The senzala chain became a gold chain and jewels”.
Note from BBT: Now that we know a little about the three brothas featured on the covers, let’s learn a little about Agatha Barbosa, the young woman who was instrumental in making it happen.
Who is Agatha Barbosa, the fashion producer of GQ Brasil, that released unprecedented edition with three young black men on the cover
By Jersey Simon
GQ Brasil Magazine – July/August edition arrived at the newsstands last July and the covers featured comedian Yuri Marçal, social entrepreneur Rene Silva and the rapper Orochi – three young black references in their areas – which help to rewrite the history of a publication that has sought to redesign male standards of beauty and success. And in the midst of all this editorial change, one woman stood out. Agatha Barbosa, 28, is responsible for two of the fashion productions on the cover of the bimester’s GQ. She, who started 2020 producing singer Ludmila’s outfits for Vogue Brasil, chatted with the Notícia Preta website about her promising career and the challenges she faces as a black woman behind the scenes of fashion.
Notícia Preta: What does the July/August cover of GQ mean to you, with its featuring for the first time three young black men as examples of success?
Agatha Barbosa: It is an absurd representation. I made the fashion production of two of the covers (Rene Silva and Yuri Marçal). I was very happy with the result. I’m a big fan of both. I want to see it more and more. It gives a certainty that we will get there, that everybody can get to the top. It gives strength to see someone who looks like me in a place where I want to be. I want to occupy more and more, me and everyone else, our community, we have to occupy. We just have to have space, maintain and expand.
NP – You gave up being a model, even though you have the “ideal biotype”, why? Can you tell your story a bit?
AB: I’m from São Gonçalo, in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro. My fashion history started when I was 15, as a model. I was always very thin and tall, and my mother thought this was the way. But I started to fall in love with the fashion world itself, for everything. I took a reverse path for most girls: I wanted to work behind the scenes instead of being the center of attention on the catwalks. But getting started wasn’t easy, even though I had the support of my parents. Even today, fashion college is not an affordable thing, starting with not having a public university. At 19 I entered a private fashion college, but I had to stop. Soon after I started again with a scholarship at Senac, and through the course I could participate in Veste Rio – one of the biggest fashion events in the country. I worked backstage doing the dressing room and fell in love; from then on everything started happening. I created my network of contacts, ran after it and never stopped.
NP: What is it like to be a fashion producer? What do you do, in practice?
AB: The fashion production company organizes and produces every pre-production of a photo, a video, a clip or a program. We look for pieces, accessories and clothes that have to do with the universe of that production. I also act today as stylist assistant. I have the opportunity to work with one of the best in Brazil, José Camarano. Besides taking me to GQ, he helps me on this path of professional growth.
NP: What inspires you and has inspired you lately?
AB: I’m very versatile and very attuned. I absorb millions of things at the same time. I take a little inspiration from everything. I watch series – I love Pose, for example – I watch movies. My job is to be always up-to-date. I’ve been consuming a lot of national rap lately: Djonga, Emicida, Rael. I also hear a lot of international POP. For me everything becomes a reference and inspiration. When I understood that I wanted to work with fashion, I knew that I wouldn’t stand still. Working with fashion allows me to be always on the move.
NP: How do you see the world of fashion for black people?
AB: I’ve never suffered any verbal aggression or anything like that because I’m a black woman, in my work environment, but I’m always the target of “strange” looks, that veiled racism. Actually, if I’m the only black woman in a studio with 20 other people, that’s already racism. Inequality in fashion is a form of racism. I’ve never worked with a black designer, for example. The fashion world is a mundo branco (white world). It’s not easy for you to get into this bubble of privilege. It starts with the issue of education, of access. Not everyone can afford a college as expensive as the fashion course. I had some privileges because my parents always helped me, but it’s not an easy career. I am very grateful to my mother and father. I think that if it wasn’t for them, maybe I wouldn’t be in this business.
NP: At the beginning of the year you did the production of Ludmila’s photo shoot for Vogue Brasil, which had great repercussion. Where do you want to go in your career?
AB: I want to get to a point where I feel comfortable and happy doing what I chose. I want to be independent and I want to write my story. The girl that worked out. I want to be known by everyone, to be a reference, not only in style, but in my attitudes. I want to reach the top, so other black girls can see me and believe that they can get where they want. I want to be respected as a black woman who fought. We get tired of running after each other, of killing each other, and after all this having the name written very small in the corner of a page. I want more than that. I want to be inspiration, because I didn’t have anyone. I didn’t know any black women at the time I entered the world of fashion production. Nowadays, I have some like Suyane Ynaya, stylist and fashion editor of Elle magazine and Bárbara Louise, another super stylist.
NP: What are your plans for the future?
AB: I’m very determined. Of course sometimes I’m afraid, but I go and accomplish even with fear. The opportunity comes and I embrace it. One of the steps I want to take in my career in the future is to move to São Paulo, which is where a lot happens. But my next step – one of the most important – is next year to start doing my own productions as a stylist. This was going to happen this year, but the pandemic came and I postponed, but it will happen soon. Besides, I want to focus on the productions that have to do with o povo negro (the black people), with my roots, I want to value what is ours.