Is Brazil the new blackface capital? White actor draws criticism after donning black makeup and “paying homage” to Godfather of Soul, James Brown



Note from BW of Brazil: I’ve said for some time now that I’m not really a believer in coincidences. Things happen when they happen because they are supposed to happen. Here’s another example. On Saturday, July 1st, I received a video that featured a brief collage of Brazil’s apparent obsession with wearing blackface makeup to imitate ridicule black people. As I pondered when I should post the video, I didn’t have to wait long to tie it into a new post, as the very next day (Sunday) on the nation’s top television network, Globo, we would see yet another blackface performance!

Nelson Freitas as James Brown on “Show dos Famosos”

Many of the images featured in the video I received through a social network have been previously featured in this blog’s ongoing coverage of this sick practice. The caption in the video introduces the theme: “Brazilian way! Today’s theme: Blackface.” The caption continues by repeating an oft-repeated phrase uttered by Brazilians when the topic is racism. “Blackface? Here is not the United States” before questioning the phrase: “Could this be?” 

In numerous previous posts, I’ve already disputed this mythical, but enduring idea that it is the United States that is the truly racist nation while such attitudes and acts don’t exist in Brazil, so I won’t waste time with it again. The fact is, if the United States never existed as a nation and these incidents that I report still occurred in Brazil, there would be no favorite target to point the finger at and perhaps the world would see South America’s largest and perhaps most corrupt nation for what it is: An incredibly racist country that has long demonstrated that it doesn’t appreciate the existence of its black citizens. And even with rejection of the practice of white-skinned people painting themselves black having reached a fever pitch in recent years, it seems that Brazilians won’t be giving up wearing blackface anytime soon.

Perhaps we should thus create another nickname for the country besides the “country of the future”. How about the new capital of blackface? It sure has earned it!

Nelson Freitas and Claudia Raia receive criticism after ‘Show of the Famosos’

Netizens didn’t like Nelson’s ‘Blackface’ nor the actress’s controversial statements

Courtesy of Estado de S.Paulo with additional info from Folha PE

Rio – This Sunday was the finale of the “Show do Famosos” (Show of the Famous), on the Domingão no Faustão variety show. Nelson Freitas chose to interpret James Brown in his presentation and received a lot of praise from the judges.

O episódio aconteceu na final do 'Show dos Famosos', neste domingo (2)
Nelson Freitas and Claudia Raia

However, in social networks, the characterization of the comedian has generated criticism: Freitas is being accused of doing ‘blackface’, that is, of painting himself black. Commenting on the presentation, the actor said that “he wanted to be a ‘negão’ (big, black man), like James Brown. The phrase and the makeup were judged as racist by some Domingão spectators.

Nelson Freitas

“People asked ‘are you going to play a negão?’ I said ‘that was all I wanted, I wanted to be a negão’. So why not do it? The guy who influenced this whole f**in’ thing,” said the actor, talking about his decision to portray the artist.

freitas brown
Freitas in blackface (at right) and James Brown

Several netizens also evaluated that there was racial prejudice on the part of Claudia Raia.

Complimenting Freitas’s performance as a judge, the actress said, “I’m dying here today, people. It’s very hard. James Brown, Michael Jackson, it’s crazy! I wanted to be a negona too! I just came with the ass of the negona. The rest I didn’t get. I wanted to be black, I love soul music, black music, I’m in love with James Brown.”


On Twitter, the actress’s comment drew more attention than the “black face” and Nelson Freitas’ statement. “Claudia Raia saying that she” wanted to be black “and only came with the negona’s ass is proof that Brazil is still very bad,” said one. “When we think that Malu Magalhaes has already ruled out the stupid spots of the year (see note one), Claudia Raia says that her dream was to be a ‘negona’”, commented another. However, there are few internet surfers who have defended Claudia Raia. “I’m negona and I wanted to be Claudia Raia!! I love this woman!!” said one.

“Claudia Raia straightens her hair, has had rhinoplasty and then says she wants to be black. If you were black you wouldn’t have had any space on TV”

Note from BW of Brazil: Just for clarity, I don’t buy when white Brazilians claim they would like to be black. Why would they? 95% of the nation’s citizens have a preference for whiteness, the power and wealth of the nation are in the hands of those who consider themselves white and white faces dominate every form of media. On the other hand, black people are the constant recipients of racist thoughts, comments, jokes and attacks. In everyday interactions across the country, Brazil screams at its black citizens, “it’s better to be white!” And I’m supposed to believe that two well-known public figures would like to trade places with the people who are the most likely to be murdered, the least educated and most depreciated group in the country. Now tell me the one about Brazil not be racist again!

Source: Estado de S.Paulo, Folha PE, Blasting News


  1. After being ridiculed and accused of racism in her music video, the singer then appeared on a popular TV talk show and created even more controversy by introducing a song by saying “This is for whoever is prejudiced and believes that whites can’t play samba.” Samba is considered one of Brazil’s greatest cultural symbols and is an acknowledged Afro-Brazilian art form although today it is considered a part of national culture.
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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