The black woman in beauty pageants

Emille Fernanda Costa was elected Miss Tocantins Latina 2017 in February of 2016

Note from BW of BrazilThe recent victory of Sabrina Paiva in the Miss São Paulo 2016 contest has been a hot topic since this past weekend as black-oriented social networks continue to share in her victory by posting her photos and writing supportive, cheerful comments. As black women as so under-represented in the media and in such beauty pageants, there is indeed reason to commemorate this victory, especially considering there were only two black women in a contest featuring 30 women. But Paiva’s victory is still quite the exception in a country in which Eurocentric standards of beauty are the rule. I continue to advocate for the continued growth of specifically black contests. I have the firm belief that black people should and must begin to value their beauty and stop expecting, desiring and hoping for the white stamp of approval.

As it turns out, another black woman broke a barrier in a beauty contest in another state back in February and this fact was only brought to our attention thanks to the women over at the Blogueiras Negras blog. This fact in itself is yet another reason why independent black media is necessary! The news about Emille Fernanda Costa’s victory in the small state of Tocantins was hardly covered in the media. And even with recent victories of Paiva and Costa, the standard beauty in Brazil is and will remain judged based upon European standards. Which is why black Brazilians must continue to appreciate themselves and do for themselves.

After all, if they don’t do it….

The black woman in beauty pageants

By Dandara Barbosa and Naiara Mascarenhas – Originally posted in Blogueiras Negras

Emille Fernanda Costa


We know that in all areas the woman’s body has always been the target of commodification and objectification, and this is no different in beauty contests: competitions among women seeking to be in a beauty standard accepted by the media and society.

This standard, in turn, is always European: magro, branco, alto, cabelos lisos (thin, white, tall, straight hair). The estética branca (white aesthetic) is the most valued and accepted.

Emille Fernanda Costa at left

The posture of white feminists are always repudiating these beauty contests, with a view that they the imposition of standards of beauty that repeatedly introduce feelings of frustration and low self-esteem in the majority of women occurs. However, before the judgments, we need to take into account the differences in the realities of mulheres brancas (white women) and mulheres negras (black women).

The black women:

– Represent the majority of women who are raped;

– Receive the lowest wages in the job market;

– Are not represented in the media (and when they are, they appear in a hyper-sexualized way);

– Have the lowest levels of education;

– Have no visibility in the space of beauty pageants.

We cannot accept, agree and defend the beauty pageants, considering that their selection criteria are sustained in the Eurocentric standard of beauty. However, we cannot fall into the widespread and shallow discourse, which does not recognize the different degrees of oppressions (intersections) that subdue and devalue black woman. It is not acceptable to forget us in the long process of enslavement of black people in Brazil, which today makes us feel the various slave/ racist legacies in all social environments. A proven fact given the lack of black people in positions of power.

Miss Tocantins Latina

Even after 128 years after the abolition of slavery, discourses introducing a negative image of black people, always inferiorized and disqualifying black features present in the hair, skin, nose and mouth are reproduced. We know that today there is a racist-aesthetic ideology that permeates the imaginary of the society, and we soon realize that the hard fight for the appreciation of black beauty means the recognition of the importance of representation for black women. Fighting, occupying and resisting in these contests also mean a political act.

A Miss Tocantins Latina 2017 , Emille Fernanda Costa

It is necessary to deconstruct the standards of beauty that marginalize black women, it’s necessary to show and affirm our aesthetic because it is included in the construction of black identity. Representation indeed matters! And that feeling has to exist from childhood, we need to correct this process so that we have black children and adolescents with cabelo crespo (curly/kinky hair) that have high self-esteem, because it is in these moments of life that we are in personal and social construction and, thus, these young people can recognize their own beauty from a sense of representation and belonging that these contests can provide.


Emille Fernanda Costa

However, to fight to elect a black Miss in a state in which 75% of the population is black – even in the country in which the majority of the population is black – is a political act, and gains another dimension: to go against this Eurocentric standard imposed by racist society. With this approach, we stand against the lack of representation of black women, and we demand, in this act, our space of representation.

So, we as mulheres negras and tocantinenses (natives of the state of Tocantins) will feel an incredible joy when Tocantins breaks with the rule of prevailing standards, and elects for the first time, a black Miss.

About the authors:

Dandara Barbosa, an empowered and Aquarian black woman, is 19, Tocantinense, considers herself a journalist in training (because she’s in college and working in the area), active militant of the movimento negro e feminista (black and feminist movement), which is her passion!

Naiara Mascarenhas, 23, recently graduated in the area of social service from the Federal University of Tocantins. Black, Piscean, of the left and marvelously depraved!

Source: Blogueiras Negras

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


  1. Just as with Sabrina paiva, I am stricken by how much this woman stands out and glows so beautifully next to those basic Beckys she is standing next to! I am also happy to see ANOTHER woke sista rocking her fro in a beauty pageant! In the first picture, I can’t help but notice how Emille seems to actually be MOVING when compared to the 2 contestants she is standing next to. She is almost bright and shiny next to those other 2 chicks! As I keep re-iterating, I do think some “higher ups’ in Brazilian society have begun to remember their true heritage during this Black Awakening in Brazill! I feel like “Estados Unidenses” and Brasileras/os are somehow joined in spirit in uplifting each other. The war stories are bad – yes they are. But it is JUST as important for us to remember that there ARE Black people making progress in every facet of around the planet. It will be interesting to see what the next year will bring for Black people around the world! Even EUROPE is about to be a Black-ass country within the next generation with the refugee crisis that is happening over there. I just feel that we have reached the tipping point of the rise of Black consciousness, and boy, how we shine 🙂

  2. @ Gatas- Do I know why what is happening? I didn’t completely understand the question! Are you asking if I know why more Black women are winning beauty contests?

      • Ah yes!
        The short answer: Refugees are fleeing civil war in their own countries.

        The longer answer: The former Ottoman Empire was destabilized by European countries and, over time, conquered by them. With that counquering, the region was destabilized even more when the European conquerors randomly carved out new territories with names like “Kuwait”, “Iran”, and “Syria”, “Israel (which people falsley think is the one in the Bible), and “Lebanon”, without respecting the fact that many of the different tribes had existed in this region for millinea without getting along, but had their own way remaining somewhat peacefully separated from one another (the same way Europeans notoriously do not greatly get along with all Europeans from the different countries over there). Suddenly, tribes that were not compatible were forced to live together so that “the West” could gain greater control of the oil and other resources in the region. Most of the random creation of countries/territories according to the needs of “the West” was done during World War I, so most of these countries are barely a century old. These tribes still do not get along and cannot agree on anything due to the fact that they all hold different belief systems which have been held for centuries, as opposed to more “flexible” nations like Brazil and USA, which are relatively young in comparison.

        Now, since there is no end in sight to said destabilization, European nations like England, Germany and France are seen to have caused the destabilization, and because its easier to get to those countries by land or a short boat trip, they are flooding into Europe and becoming Blacker by the hour!

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