In over 430 issues of the Brazilian edition of Playboy, only seven black women have made the cover


In its 35 years in Brazil, Playboy magazine has put out more than 430 issues, and featured some of the most beautiful Brazilian women to grace its pages, yet and still, as in other areas of Brazilian society, Afro-Brazilians are extremely underrepresented on the covers of the prestigious men’s magazine. How underrepresented? Since the introduction of Playboy’s Brazilian edition, only 2% of its 400 plus covers have featured a black woman. The most recent was Jacqueline Faria, a Carnaval dancer that participated in the reality series Big Brother Brazil 11, and was tagged with the title of “the most aphrodisiatic curves of BBB” by the editors of Playboy Brasil.

afro brazilian women
Dancer Jacqueline Faria
Faria’s appearance of the cover of the May 2011 edition opened a discussion amongst fans of the men’s magazine: With so many beautiful black women in Brazil, why are so few featured on the cover? According to Playboy, the requirement for the choice of cover is the fame. “She has to be a success at that moment”, says Cássia Cunha, a spokesperson for Playboy Brasil. Luiz Otávio Vieira Pereira, who did research on Playboy’s Brazilian edition also posed this question to the magazine’s editor, Edson Aran.
Pereira: Among the covers, only 5 were black women (1). A disparity if we take into consideration Brazilian miscegenation. According to the ex-editor, Rodrigo Paranhos Vellos, it is only justified putting a black woman in the main featured if she is really famous, because, in general, Afro-descendents don’t sell the magazine.
Aran: In spite of Brazil being a mixed race country, in all the history of the magazine only five black women were placed on the cover. What explains this disparity? Because, in spite of Brazil being a mixed-race country, there are many black stars in the novelas (soap operas) and TV programs. How many in fact have leading roles? Very few. We are far having in Brazil actresses or black singers with the acclaim of a Beyonce or a Halle Berry or example.
In 2005, veteran actress and former participant of Big Brother Brasil 4, Solange Couto, said that negotiations with the magazine were a fiasco. “They said that blacks do not sell the magazine”, she complained.
Actress Solange Couto

Dancer/model Rosiane Pinheiro was one of the black women featured on the cover of Playboy after being chosen by the Brazilian soccer team as the “Muse of the World Cup” back in June of 1998. For her, this isn’t a thing of prejudice. “I think, in fact, black women who are successful don’t wish to appear naked. Some advocate for being politicized and other principles”, reflects Rosiane, who says she was welcomed by the staff of the magazine. Pinheiro didn’t reveal how much she was paid for being on the cover, but she said it was enough make a big change in the life of her whole family. “I could buy a house, a car, open a business and even re-build my mother’s house”, said the dancer.

Dancer Rosiane Pinheiro

So, here once again, we have a situation where those responsible for a product and making decisions of who can best represent that product blaming its lack of diversity on Brazilian society. In Brazil, it is common to hear business people say that they can’t use black people to sell their product because if consumers see black faces they will assume the product is for and targeted to persons of lower class status. This despite the fact that more and more Afro-Brazilians are becoming a part of Brazil’s expanded middle class and actresses like Taís Araújo and Camila Pitanga are trailblazing paths of success never before experienced by Afro-Brazilian actresses.

It’s ironic that many Brazilians are quick to point to the United States as a truly racist country while deflecting and denying Brazil’s own serious racial issues. In fact, in comparison, eight African-American women have won the most prestigious contest of American beauty, the Miss America contest, while only one Afro-Brazilian woman has ever won the Miss Brasil contest in its 58 year history. The very fact that Edson Aran can point to prominent African-American performers such as Beyonce or Halle Berry and the lack of an Afro-Brazilian counterpart should prompt people to start re-assessing the differences and similarities between race, experiences and the positions and treatment of African descendants in the two societies. Indeed, as I have argued in a previous post, the untimely passing of the pop music superstar Whitney Houston glares a spotlight on the idea that the it seems that the Brazilian music industry wants to assure that no Brazilian equivalent of Houston can ever gain prominence. 
Also, in dealing with the adult entertainment industry, another question must be considered: should black women even care that they are underrepresented in this market? Throughout the history of the global representation of black women, stereotypes have labeled the woman of African descent as hypersexual, lascivious, possessing special sexual powers that other women do not possess and only having value according to their bodies. As this image of the black woman remains popular in Brazil’s cultural imagination, should black women even fight to have more access to a genre that feeds into these stereotypes even more? Consider three popular sayings that reveal the place of an attractive black woman in Brazil. Keep in mind, any attractive woman of African descent can be considered a “mulata” in Brazil. 

a. Branca é branca preta é preta. Mas a mulata é a tal
(A white woman is a white woman, a black woman is a black woman, but the mulata is the best).
b. Branca para casar, mulata para foder, negra para trabalhar
(White woman for marriage, mulata woman for fucking, black woman for work).
c. Porque és mulata na cor. Mas como a cor não pega mulata. Mulata eu quero o teu amor
(Because you are mulata in color. But since I can’t catch your color. Mulata I want your love).

In the lyrics to song “a”, the mulata woman is worshiped as the best choice. In “b”, the mulata is good enough to have sexual relations but not marriage. In song “c”, as long as the mulata’s color doesn’t rub off on the author, he wants her love. Thus, if we relate these ideals to the absence of black (mulata) women in Playboy Brasil magazine, we can say that although certain black women (mulatas) are very attractive, they are only good enough for sexual relations without a respectable relationship (or in the case of the magazine, public acknowledgement of her beauty). And since no one wants the burden that comes with this color (as such, it can’t sell magazines), only a sexual relationship is possible. Is there any wonder there are so few Afro-Brazilian women on the covers?

What do you think? Feel free to leave a comment.

1. At the time of the interview, only five black women had appeared on the cover of Playboy Brasil, one of which was the African-American woman Darine Stern. Since the time of the interview, actress Juliana Alves and dancer Jaqueline Faria also appeared on covers bringing the total to seven. In the top photo, the Brazilian  women featured on the covers are: From left to right, top: Jaqueline Faria (May 2011) (black & white covers), Isabel Fillardis (November 1996), Sônia Lima (February 1996). From left to right, bottom: Janaína Santos (October 2002), Jéssica Maia (February 2010), Rosiane Pinheiro (June 1998) and Juliana Alves (October 2010).

Article incorporates an article found in Jornal Massa

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


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