Note from BBT: Today’s piece should really be considered a followup to the article I posted a few days ago about the black winners of Brazil’s most popular reality shows in 2020. Although I have already admitted that I’m not really a fan of these shows, nevertheless, they are very revealing in terms of race issues in Brazil and even more importantly, an evolution in a rising solidarity among black Brazilians.
Even though my experience of these shows came more through the lens of comments posted in Afro-Brazilian communities of social networks, I almost feel as if reading the thoughts of the people were even more important than actually watching these programs. I only watched a few bits and pieces of the most watched reality show in Brazil, Big Brother Brasil (season 20), but there were some very key moments that that I found to be important for Brazilians to see.
The situation of Afro-Brazilian actor Babu Santana in itself was an important moment in Brazilian television history and for several reasons. The fact that an award-winning actor felt the need to participate in a reality to win the case prize because his acting jobs weren’t paying the bills spoke volumes of the situation of black actors in Brazil’s entertainment industry. The racist manner in which he was treated on the program and the joke the white women of the show made about the pick he used to comb his hair once again put the spotlight on the way black physical features are viewed by the dominant society.
It wasn’t just on this program.
There are numerous article posted on this blog that discuss the issue of what is and what is not “good hair” in Brazil as well as the courage it took for so mnay black women to start wearing their hair natural in a country that frowns on kinky/curly hair. The other key black participant on the program, and the evntual winner, Thelma, also played an instrumental role in showing her solidarity with Babu when so many other participants were attempting to isolate him. Thelma’s victory and taking home BRL 1.5 million was arguably the biggest of all the black victories on reality shows in 2020.
But ALL of them mattered because they were once again proof of a new attitude within black Brazil that said black Brazilians are looking out for each other. Supporting black participants on a reality show may not compare to thousands of black people taking to the streets when another black body falls to the ground because of a stray bullet or the brutality of security forces, but it still matters and is perhaps more important than one might imagine.
Below is Laís Gomes’ view on what these victories meant.
‘One goes up and pulls up the other’: what you still need to understand about black victories on reality shows
Results represent a major turning point, since, in the two most popular, BBB (Big Brother Brasil) and A Fazenda, blacks represented only 14% of participants in the entire history of the programs
By Laís Gomes
Jojô Todynho, Thelma Assis, Marina Gregory, Victor Alves and Kauê Penna. These are the names of the winners of the main Brazilian reality shows of 2020. What do they have in common? In the year that the racial agenda was one of the most discussed topics in the world, five blacks reached the top in popularity in the programs Big Brother Brasil, A Fazenda, The Circle Brasil, The Voice, and The Voice Kids.
The sequence of black victories was the subject of social media in the last week with the ending of Record TV’s A Fazenda, but the agenda on racial representativeness has been gaining even more strength since the beginning of the year, when activists, influencers, artists and intellectuals engaged for the victory of Thelma and Babu, who suffered episodes of racism on Globo TV’s Big Brother Brasil. Since then, issues related to body standards, relationships and even the dispute for the prize – which have always been the main conversations inside and outside of reality shows – have given way to deep discussions about ancestry, structural racism and representativeness.
They are seeing us! Even if it’s temporarily – which I really hope not – ‘we’re on’. So, let’s enjoy it! Better late than never, whether in fashion or not – Flávia Cirino, Journalist
A taking of consciousness has begun to be absorbed by companies and more blacks have begun to be seen on magazine covers, on TV shows, in newsrooms and in advertising. Black protagonism has increased considerably. Especially in 2020, every black presence in these places was celebrated. On the other hand, each absence was harshly criticized.
#Colabora talked to journalist Flávia Oliveira, who analyzed these victories. For her, the mobilization of different parts of society, especially black activists, was one of the factors for this protagonism in reality shows in 2020. “Blacks have never had much space on reality shows, as they never have anywhere. There was a lot of pressure from activists and influencers for more presence of black people in these programs and, from then on, a great commitment of this activism. The movement of the black proud of this alliance among blacks has greatly increased, even with some caveats.” To get an idea of this absence, the black population represents only 14% of all participants from all seasons of Big Brother Brasil and A Fazenda. In the true reality of Brazil, they are 56.10%. “Just as they are demanding in soap operas, in literature, in audiovisual, in journalism, they are also leading the mobilization for reality shows”, defends Flávia.
Blacks are always at the bottom, never at the top. Some people may thinl that this massive victory happening on TV isn’t a big deal. I don’t believe it is a consolation prize because the victory of the black person is never his/hers alone. We usually use the phrase ‘um sobe e puxa o outro’ (‘one goes up and pulls up the other’) and that’s what this is about. – Ana Paula Pinto, Senior analyst at Electrolux
Conceição Evaristo, one of the main exponents of contemporary Brazilian literature, is an example of this phenomenon that has gone beyond the screens. The writer requested Jojo for votes in the finale of the program on her Instagram. “It’s just that today, is the final judgment on Fazenda. And may it be a hallelujah day for Jordana Gleice, known as Jojo Todynho. The prize must be hers. I heard many of Jordana’s speeches, but I also heard a lot of her hurt silence. Painful silence kept that will explode later, in Jordana Gleice’s own mouth, or in the mouth of someone who knows how to cover the silence in a cry. Jordana Gleice, my vote is for you. I already called you my granddaughter and found out I am your grandmother’s age. I also reaffirm that it was Ainá, my special girl, who showed me that you were on the ‘Fazenda’ game. Her vote opened the way. Jordana Gleise, Jojo Todynho, may luck and justice pursue you,”she wrote. Jojô is the first black woman to win the reality show, which has been on the air since 2009.
The occupation of spaces
Certainly, a paradigm was broken in 2020 with black protagonism in reality shows. In contrast, it is observed that nothing has changed in relation to the so-called “quotas” of participation. Except for “The Voice”, in all other mentioned realities, a black couple entered each edition of the programs. These characters, however, managed to do, in a natural way, the “breaking of the four walls”, a feature used in cinema when a character looks at the camera and speaks to the audience. With the involvement of different segments of society, it is increasingly noticeable that reality shows are not only entertainment programs, but can also be considered as a social and anthropological study done by those who are outside of television, watching, commenting, voting and learning.
“If the black stands out in a reality show, he/she becomes news as much as the white. Along with this news comes a hint of knowledge, of learning, which people started to ‘like’. Not a few colleagues have apologized, out of nowhere, for realizing how cruel they have been to ours. European colonization covered our eyes, perhaps theirs,”analyzes Flavia Cirino, an editor specializing in celebrity vehicles and reality shows.
Such victories, driven by the participation of the black movement in social networks, show that the search for representation is strong, important and only grows as blacks win and, symbolically, occupy these spaces that were denied them throughout their lives, making a whole new structure grow, breaking patterns already established over the decades and strengthening the movement for other daily struggles. “They are seeing us! Even if it’s temporarily – which I really hope not – ‘we’re on’. So, let’s enjoy it! Better late than never, whether in fashion or not. May they recognize that we are exactly as or even more capable. As or even more beautiful. As much or even more intelligent. It would be so simple to practice everything that is preached. I see that, in the current scenario, it is propitious to exit from the edges. We will show our strength even more and we will occupy the center of all the scenes,” adds Flávia Cirino.
‘One goes up and pulls up the other’
In parallel to the victories in reality shows and the fact that the racial agenda is one of the most discussed subjects in Brazil in 2020, the press reported several violent deaths of black bodies in Brazil and in the world like George Floyd and João Alberto. According to the 2020 Atlas of Violence, which was released in August of this year in São Paulo by the FBSP (Brazilian Public Security Forum) and by IPEA (Institute of Applied Economic Research), the number of homicides of black and brown people increased by 11.5% in a decade.
For black movement activist and law student Thuane Nascimento, there is still a long way for representation to be reflected in the ballot box as well. “Reality shows can be seen as a social study because it is a mini-society recorded 24 hours a day. There, social relations are being demonstrated, which goes through each one of those people, the experiences of the bodies and the comments. So, whoever is racist, no matter how much they create a character, however much they take a position, will at some point, they will demonstrate that. Just as black people will manifest there in all their forms. Even though they know they are being recorded, people demonstrate at some point what they are. People see each other.
In Brazil, most people are black, people look and see themselves on the reality show. They watch on television and see the truth, they find themselves in those bodies and in those lines. It’s something that many black candidates are unable to do in institutional politics, for example. Be it for lack of time on television, or for lack of electoral funding, of money. For not being able to arrive, to dialogue with these people. Within politics, black candidates end up having to go through several screening processes in order to present their image. People are disgusted by politics, but they are not disgusted by reality (shows), by television, and that says a lot. In addition to the way of voting that is different, it’s not like in politics that people can only vote once,” says Nascimento, who today represents Perifa Connect, Favela nas Lutas and Movimenta Caxias.
If reality shows are the way for people to see that we need to be in all positions and in all places, so be it, because things are changing a lot with each victory, each achievement and each demand – Ana Paula Pinto, Senior analyst at Electrolux
Despite the dichotomy between structural racism in Brazil, violence against the black population, the lack of black representatives in various areas of civil society and the black winners of the country’s main reality shows, the fight against prejudice needs to continue growing stronger within and off-screen.
For Ana Paula Pinto, senior analyst at Electrolux, one of the main multinationals in the country, reveals that, what was previously impossible, has now become reality, albeit slowly, thanks to this representation in the media. “I am the only black woman to have a relevant position in my company. Blacks are always at the bottom, never at the top. Some people may thinl that this massive victory happening on TV isn’t a big deal. I don’t believe it is a consolation prize because the victory of the black person is never his/hers alone. We usually use the phrase ‘um sobe e puxa o outro’ (‘one goes up and pulls up the other’) and that’s what this is about. If reality shows are the way for people to see that we need to be in all positions and in all places, so be it, because things are changing a lot with each victory, each achievement and each demand.”
Who are they?
#Colabora now shows the profile of the main winners of the 2020 reality show. In addition to the characters in the story, other reality shows (which are not measured by popularity) there was a massive victory for blacks, such as on Masterchef, a reality show of chefs with the victory of Luiz Alves; ‘Open Bar’, a drinks reality show, with the victory of Leandro Santos and the Dança dos Famosos (meaning ‘Dance of the Famous’, a Dancing With the Stars type program)’, with the recent victory of actress Lucy Ramos.
Jordana Gleice de Jesus Menezes, Jojo Todynho, became known with her hit “Que Tiro Foi Esse” in 2017. The 23-year-old funkeira lived in Bangu, in the West Zone of Rio, with her grandmother. Jojô lost her father in childhood, a victim of a stray bullet. As a teenager, she started working, taking on her duties as a cleaning lady, street vendor, caregiving for the elderly, babysitter, popsicle seller and toy monitor in shopping malls, until her music blew up on the internet. Since then, Jojô tried to score other hits, none as strong as the first, but she established herself as an influencer and poster girl for several brands.
Thelma Assis, Thelminha, is 35 years old, is an anesthesiologist and worked for a few years in four hospitals in São Paulo. Thelma is part of the wing of dancers at Mocidade Alegre, a samba school in São Paulo, and in 2020 she became known when she entered the BBB 20th season. After the program, she became one of the participants who had the most revenue from advertising, being hired even by the government of the State of São Paulo.
Marina Gregory is 25 years old, lives in Méier, in Rio, and is flight attendant. Before going to The Circle Brasil, she recorded in England, and had already traveled to some countries in the world. She debuted on the list of black reality winners this 2020 convincing the other participants in the reality that she was the most popular among them. Today, he talks on her social networks about her hair transition, freedom of the body, among other subjects.
The 20-year-old Bahian, born and raised in Macaé, started singing in the church, when he was still small. Shortly before the pandemic, Victor moved to the capital of Rio to try his music career. Before winning The Voice, he worked in several informal jobs, including food delivery man and welder.
Kauê Penna was born and raised in a community of São João de Meriti, in the Baixada Fluminense region of Rio. He started singing at the age of 4 with his mother in an Evangelical church. Before joining The Voice Kids, he auditioned and was cast in the Christian musical show Rua Azusa, which was in Rio and São Paulo before the pandemic.
Source: Projeto Colabora