Note from BW of Brazil: With the absence of adequate representation in the mainstream media, many Afro-Brazilian women have taken to YouTube to reach other like-minded viewers, divulge their opinions on a number of topics that are important to this community and offer tips on everything from hair products, to makeup, to how to rock turbans (1). But even in this media outlet, black women have found that their voices, outreach, support and even sponsorship comes up far short (2) in comparison to white women; white women whose images already dominate in a mainstream media that has the power to reach tens of millions of viewers every hour of everyday.
But in reality, this shouldn’t come as any sort of surprise. The discussion of racism and racial identity, for example, have only become widely-discussed topics in the past decades or so and serious issues are not something that masses of people really want to talk about. As such, in general, people will much more likely to discuss the futebol game, what happened in the latest novela or who is rumored to be the latest girlfriend of futebol superstar Neymar.
Even among black Brazilians, the topic of race or issues that specifically affect black people, are not things that a large percentage of them want to deal with. This is even more so when we consider the millions of persons who may not even see themselves as black. Because of this, white women vloggers will also have a certain advantage on YouTube even among (would be) black women who simply want to discuss feminine issues without the added complexity of the race issue; a race issue that many don’t necessarily see as affecting them.
But YouTube, for black women vloggers, offers something that they’ve never had. An opportunity to see women who look like themselves as protagonists and initiating conversations that they will never see on Globo, Record, SBT or Bandeirantes television networks. We hope to see this representation and viewership grow in years to come and the fill the tremendous gap created by the aforementioned networks and Brazil’s media in general.
With no sponsors, black women YouTubers resist and gain space by force
By João Vieira
It is very likely that today, YouTube is the most attractive platform for young communicators who seek, in some way, to find a relative success and sustain themselves speaking directly to the public about various subjects. Some channels are segmented, being that the majority of them speak of games and beauty. Others treat everything with good humor and charisma.
Jout Jout Prazer and Kéfera (3) are two strong examples of successful YouTubers. The first, a young carioca (native of Rio) journalist, has more than 900,000 subscribers on her channel. She is the protagonist of almost all YouTube publicity campaigns. She’s on TV shows, in magazines, on talk shows, radio, in music, fashion and discussion events.
The second one goes even further. Eight million subscribers, travel, essays for magazines, interviews, invitations to VIP parties and even the release of a book. Glamour worthy of former BBBs (reality show participants) and actors of Globo (TV) novelas.
But not everyone has such luck. On the contrary, to get to this step, it takes a little more than talent and luck: there is a standard to follow.
Among all the top 20 youtubers of Brazil, there is something in common: they are all brancos (white). There are no black youtubers in any company campaign in large Brazilian cities, or who has been invited onto TV shows. No that they are lacking.
Ana Paula Xongani, Gabi Oliveira, Tati Sacramento and Mariana Villanova are four out of thousands who haven’t been able to get propagation or sponsorship to convey their ideas. “It is the structure that ends up crushing us. I don’t believe in a process of racism on the platform, but I think it could have a stronger role to avoid this racism that is so systematic. In some way, it could see what the issues are of this population and optimize, and not utilize numbers as the principle meter. Because if it doesn’t become a cycle we will never get it,” explains Ana Paula. “We just need space, and it’s not a privileged area no, it’s the space that everyone has. We are just as good,” completes Tati Sacramento.
With many points in common, Virgula invited the four to tell their stories and opinions about this unequal world of YouTubers. As putting them together here would create a huge article, each received their own space. Below you can see a brief summary and read them in their entirety in future articles.
Ana Paula Xongani: married, mother of a two year old daughter, artist, moda afro (African fashion) stylist and YouTuber in not so vague hours
“A number of factors make it so that blacks are not in that platform. We can’t get representation by the same racist logic of the market and of communication in a general way, because unfortunately it has its owners. I understand YouTube as a place of passion, but that only works for those non black people because there is a market logic that sustains them to talk about what they want to talk about. That is, they begin to speak for passion, for love, but then the market embraces this idea and they begin to live in that. Today they keep talking about them, but they earn well for this. And this logic does not work with black women, and it’s a very complex problem, which is the problem of racism in communication, in the economy, such institutional racism. The market does not see us not as a consumer, not as an object of communication object.”
“My popularity, compared with white women YouTubers is low. Compared with black women, no. I have 20,000 subscribers and this population, for black channels, it is a great growth. And there are people that have come here for about three years and can’t grow. Here in Brazil we have a very complex thing, because when white girls talking about doing makeup, people think it is for the general public. That is, black teenagers watch white girls doing makeup, but white girls don’t watch the black girls, because it becomes something specific to black skin and then complicates everything, right (laughs).”
Tati Sacramento: journalist, soteropolitana (native of Salvador, Bahia), blogger and YouTuber who overcame her shyness to become a former of opinion
“It’s not just talking about hair, fitness, health and makeup, is what lies behind this discourse, which is much more intense and empowering. It’s a very empowering discourse. It’s like talking about feminism, for example. There is the problem of the white woman who is also a victim of this male-dominated society, but if you discuss black feminism it’s much worse, so there’s no way to discuss it in the same harvest, unfortunately. We have to support the question of the woman, regardless of whether she’s black or white, but we would like that the society understands that the black woman loses much more than the white woman, has more disadvantages.”
Mariana Villanova: Carioca (native of Rio de Janeiro) and YouTuber as a profession. After all, literally having an international career is for few.
“The black women YouTubers entered YouTube a little later; the black girls didn’t have a principle issue to talk about. After this question of identity arose, black women began to talk about themselves without shame and people wanting to talk about the subject started to appear. And after that came a lot of people talking about other subjects, and the black community started talking about makeup, books, movies and all the subjects that had a public to watch.”
- Over the past few years, YouTube has become a valuable tool for Afro-Brazilians to share beauty tips, acting productions (also here), TV commercials, poetry and telling their own stories.
As we learned in a previous article on Afro-Brazilian political candidates only managing one-third the financial donations of white candidates, we see that sponsors simply aren’t interested in supporting black issues.
- Both of these women have actually been featured on this blog. Jout Jout due to a story about her followers discovering her boyfriend was black while he never saw himself as such. Kéfera Buchmann was featured after a controversial clip of her performing a comedy skit in blackface.