Note from BW of Brazil: Wow! Is it that time again? Well, not quite. Brazilian Carnaval doesn’t start for more than four months but the nation’s top TV network is already gearing up. As has been consistently shown on this blog, black Brazilians, and black Brazilian women in particular, are routinely made invisible in Brazil’s mass media, save the period beginning the Carnaval season and Carnaval itself where lovelies of various shades of brown are allowed to shine. Some viewers have pointed out that even in recent years of Carnaval, the one time of the year where television doesn’t portray Brazil as an extension of Europe, women of visible African ancestry are being pushed aside to make more room for more European looking women. Indeed, as Professor Natasha Pravaz has argued, “the most valued bodies in Rio de Janeiro are those of white Brazilians that are able to embody the qualities of mulattoes.” In a 2009 article, Pravaz focuses specifically on “the characteristics associated with mulatto women in the context of Carnival”, and critiques “how in recent years white women have progressively come to occupy the spotlight in this setting.”
Pravaz’s argument is in line with a previous article here on a Brazilian “booty contest” last year in which all of the contestants were white or slightly tanned. In this context, black Brazilian women are stuck in a catch-22 situation. On the one hand, Carnaval is the only time of year they are prominently featured in the media. On the other hand, this highly sensualized imagery, along with that of the domestic servant, are the few images associated with black women in Brazilian society. This blog can only hope that information provided here gives a more well-rounded representation of these women throughout the year as we continue to push for change is this very one-sided representation. Along these lines comes today’s piece by Marcos Sacramento. While it’s great to see so many lovely black women on one show, the question remains, why must this only happen during Carnaval? How do you feel about this topic? Is it better that black women simply remain invisible from the media or participate in a singular, often stereotyped imagery? While you chew on that, consider the global implications of the image of black women as experienced by an African-American woman who was constantly deemed a prostitute on her six-month stay in Argentina. This centuries old stereotype of black women is also common in the Brazilian context, which is why this issue is so important.
See video of the contestants below and feel free to leave a comment.
It’s Fantástico: Open season for the hunt of mulatas
by Marcos Sacramento
The Globo TV network’s Sunday evening journal Fantástico has initiated the mulata hunting season. Last Sunday, the network launched the contest to choose the new Globeleza girl. Ten girls will compete for the crown of Queen of Globo Carnival. All black women. The program confirms the en rooted practice of limiting the exposure of blacks to stereotypical roles.
During the next three weeks, they will participate in a sort of contest to be chosen by the public. In this same period, a few equally beautiful black women will lend their images to sell margarine, cars, packages or insurance television ads.
The contest is an eloquent example of how blacks are treated on Brazilian TV: always relegated to supporting roles or loaded with clichés, whether negative or supposedly positive, such as the joy or indisposition attributed to people of color. When they are in evidence, they are frantically dancing on Esquenta, the television equivalent to a big party in the senzalas (slave quarters).
Another dispute of beauties promoted by the same Fantástico attests to this exclusion. The “Menina Fantástica” contest to reveal a supermodel had very few black women in the competition. To beautiful black women Carnival and the possibility of a reign until Ash Wednesday is the only thing left. On the fashion catwalk? Only with luck or because of the measly quota system, such as those adopted in the last Fashion Rio. It’s as if a beautiful black woman were only synonymous with only being a Carnival dancer.
Some years ago I read Carnaval, Malandros e Heróis (Carnival, Rogues and Heroes) by Roberto Da Matta. He discusses, among other things, inversions in values that Carnival operates. Macho men dress up as women and the poor and uneducated become kings on the runways or doctors of the samba.
This helps to understand the role that those that aspire to be Globeleza are currently representing in the media. Their presence in Fantástico would only be a controlled and temporary subversion of the established order.
And while the girls dance, the Show da Vida (1) takes its course and every Sunday consolidates racial prejudices.
About the Author
Marcos Sacramento, from Vitória, Espírito Santo is a journalist. A part-time goalie in college, has only gotten worse since then. He prides himself on not knowing how to play the tambourine beat or clap for bad TV programs.
Note from BW of Brazil: Although this blog will continue to advocate for the inclusion of Afro-Brazilian women in all areas of Brazilian society, it is only fitting to at least allow the women to speak for themselves. As the countdown to the winner begins to narrow and Carnaval season comes closer, many viewers will most likely be tuned in only for the gyrating flesh that is presented on the screen. Below in text is how the women described their goals and outlook as shown in the video below. The text is a translation of the video.
Meet the finalists for the new Globeleza contest
After 4,000 entries and scouts going to the streets, the public will choose which of them will really transform herself into the new Globeleza 2014
courtesy of Globo
Scouts from all over Brazil took to the streets. Four thousand women sent in applications. Ten were selected. And they will now enter into a competition. Because only one can win the title: The new Globeleza (2).
In 1991, Brazilian Carnival got a new face and body (Valéria Valenssa). On the TV screen, a mulata woman appeared sambando (dancing the samba) covered only in light, paint and glitter. It was the announcement that the biggest popular party on the planet would begin.
Twenty-three carnivals passed. And the Fantástico has opened a contest to elect the woman as the symbol of revelry.
In the next three weeks, the finalists will take dance lessons, undergo changes in their looks and you at home will tell you which one could actually become the new Globeleza mulata.
The girls who are in the race will be revealed on Sunday (November 10). “Hi girls. I’m Sheron. I’ll be watching you in the next weekend, and I’m curious about knowing you. I and the people at home,” said the actress Sheron Menezes (intro photo at top).
“My name is Camila, I’m 19. I am from Minas Gerais (state), Betim (city). I’ve been living in Rio for a year. I came to Rio only because of dance,” says Camila. “I think I should be Globeleza 2014 because it has been my dream since childhood. Everything I do I do with force. I think that I have to improve the question of cinematographic presence; the question of cameras. I don’t know this very well,” says Camila.
“My name is Tuany. I’m 19 years old. I’m from Rio de Janeiro. I am a ballet teacher for children. I want to be Globeleza because I am from the samba. I was born with the samba at the root,” says the finalist. “I don’t know, I think I can sin in wanting to be better than the others. And it’s not this. Whoever wins is deserving,” says Tuany.
“My name is Nara. I’m 26. I am from Salvador (Bahia). I am a student. And I would like to be Globeleza because I think artistic nude is perfect. Wonderful,” says Nara. “I consider myself a super friendly, sweet person,” says Nara. “I need to really improve the dance and posture, in order to fit myself as Globeleza; because I know how to distribute compassion quite a bit. Nervous dot com dot BR,” confesses Nara.
“My name is Jenifer. I’m 22 years. I’m from Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro. I’m studying at college. In the area of TV and film,” says Jenifer. “A musician father, a mother who played samba, she has what it takes for samba,” said Jennifer’s mother. “I want to be Globeleza because it’s beyond being the realization of a dream. I want to send out to all the girls who could not be here my good energy, my samba no pé (samba in the foot) (3),” says Jenifer. “My positive point is charisma. I think we have to close our mouth a little. I think I talk a lot. I talk too much. I think that’s what it is,” concludes Jenifer.
“My name is Kamylla Ferraz, I’m 22, I’m from Salvador, Bahia. I currently work as a receptionist there and do dance works as well,” says Camila. “I saw Valéria Valenssa there. I painted my nails with corrective fluid. I got beat up a lot of because of it,” says the finalist. “I always go after my dreams. I have to further enhance this part of the samba,” Camila confesses.
“My name is Isabelle, I’m 26. I’m from Recife, Pernambuco. There I am a teacher of classical ballet for children,” says Isabelle. “And I want to be Globeleza because I let transpire in dance that the most beautiful thing I have is the joy of dance,” says Isabelle, one of the finalists. “What I need to improve is just breathing; because otherwise I’m already prepared. And let it go,” says Isabelle.
“My name is Nayara, I’m 25 years old, I’m from Volta Redonda (state of Rio de Janeiro), I work as a model. And I want to be Globeleza because I have had this dream since childhood,” says Nayara. “And I know that the Globeleza has to have samba no pé (samba in the foot), grace, charisma, and this I think I have,” said the candidate Nayara. “I think I have to improve a bit my butt, leg, belly, get a little better. And improving this, I think is perfect,” reveals Nayara.
“My name is Flavia. I’m 28 now. I’m from Curitiba (capital city of Paraná). I work professionally with dance; for more than 15 years. I’m in this because I ‘m looking for challenges in my profession,” says Flavia. “I think it would be an honor to represent a national reference. Because there’s no way that you can think of Carnaval without thinking of Globeleza,” says Flavia. “I think what that what is good about me is I have good compassion. And I think what I can improve is perhaps a little breathing. Because it is not easy to keep dancing samba so long,” Flavia confesses.
“My name is Cassia. I’m 18. I’m a model. I was raised in Rio de Janeiro. I’m a mulata in the blood,” says Cassia. “I want to be Globeleza because I have samba no pé (samba in the foot). And I want to take the opportunity that I had to find success in the samba,” says Cassia.”I think I have to improve my nervousness. Become more tranquil. Look how I am. Are you seeing this? Sweaty; so, I don’t know what to say. I’m very nervous,” confesses Cassia.
“My name is Lenita. I come from Recife. I am 20 years. I am a photographic model. I have this dream of being Globeleza for the visibility that it will give me for my career,” says Lenita. “As I have dreams of being an actress I think this will be good for me. I have charisma. I’m happy. And I share this,” says Lenita. “I think I should improve in the samba. I think I lack this. You understand?,” reveals Lenita.
Source: Pravaz, Natasha. “The tan from Ipanema: Freyre, Morenidade, and the cult of the body in Rio De Janeiro.” Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. October 2009. Globo, Diário do Centro do Mundo
1. Debuting in 1973, the program was first known as Fantástico, O Show da Vida (Portuguese for Fantastic, The Show of the Life). Source
2. Globeleza is a combination of the words Globo and Beleza (beauty)
3. Cariocas (persons from Rio de Janeiro) say that Samba is in the blood, never learned, just danced and somehow part of a genetic heritage. Samba no Pé or Samba in the foot, is a dance solo often seen in Samba school parades. Source
Good article. We do not know much here in the US about the Brazilian issue, but whites appropriating the style, beauty and vitality of blacks while pushing them to the sidelines, would not be surprising. One sees it in some musical performance formats. Black women pioneered the dance moves, created the medium’s buzz, established the base, but then that creation is appropriated by whites, and the blacks are frozen out of the most lucrative opportunities, and marginalized.
Now SOME of this is just how commerce works- copy the “hot” thing of the moment. SOME of it is also cultural cross fertilization. There is nothing wrong for example with a white girl honestly singing like a black one and copying her style. There is an honest artistic part to the equation, which some whites readily acknowledge. Elvis for example gave some credit to the black church and R&B styles he used. So did singer Janis Joplin. So did white rapper Eminem, who for years before he hit it big paid his dues in rap battles and street parties, and who in his songs respects certain boundaries, like not using the N word in his rhymes. This is acceptable- cultures will mix and mingle, and blend. Fair enough. People can see that RESPECT is being given.
But at a THIRD level, it also sometimes illustrates how whiteness works as well, according to some writers on the phenomenon of whiteness, and how it continually must appropriate what others design or create. In some media projects for example the blacks who pioneered the style or niche are pushed to the side, the camera on the dance floor no longer features shots of black participants and they are increasingly phased out, as white or more white-looking performers assume center stage. On the athletic field, SOMETIMES, lesser white performers who have not accomplished as much get the more lucrative commercial opportunities. Anna Kornikova in tennis compared to Serena Williams is one such example.
Hopefully the beautiful black women above will get more exposure and more opportunities. It is imperative that blacks develop their own alternative venues and networks as part of a package of solutions. Merely urging white people to “play fair” will yield little over the long run. Only power and dollars in black hands will ultimately talk.
Alliances should be struck with black media in the United States to allow more of such exposure. Black celebrities in the US have tons of money to spend. They can very well afford to help create cross-diasporal events and projects that tap the vast pool of beautiful black Brazilian talent. How come P-Diddy can drop $100,000 on one birthday party or Rapper group guy can blow $25,000 in one night on white strippers, and yet they cannot spend a dime on such cross-diaspora projects?
This is the very essence of Latin American culture. Much of Black culture was not wanted until it became popular enough. In fact throughout Latin America African culture was banned. Cumbia, Tango, Salsa, Guaguanco, Samba, etc were performed in black clubs, that white men invited themselves to in order to dance with Black women. Blacks were not allowed to white functions unless they were slaves/maids. This is how much of the African dances became mainstream. The same happens in the United States as well. I believe this is the reason that so many white women on Brazilian t.v. are tanning their skin, getting implants, and becoming body builders from the waist down (to have large legs), to emulate Black women. Then the black/mulata is no longer needed. There is only one solution and that is not to pander to racists, not be apologetic for our race, or wait for acceptance. Unfortunately, the racists cried racism in Brazil with the only Black network ever. It was taken off the air as soon as it hit.