Women’s magazine and stylist speak out against accusations of racism in the use of scouring pad hair as an homage to blacks; protesters denounce the defense

Ronaldo Fraga at the end of his runway parade on Tuesday, March 19th (Photo: Getty Images)
Note from BW of Brazil: Yesterday, the the blogosphere and social media were fire due to the recent use of steel wool/scouring pad-like wigs worn by models as an homage to the entry of black players in Brazilian soccer. From social media to comment boards, people were outraged. In response to the controversy caused by his show, the Brazilian edition of the women’s magazine Marie Claire interviewed stylist Ronaldo Fraga who was responsible for the display at the 2014 summer edition of São Paulo Fashion Week. Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly considering Brazilian media, the magazine stands in support of Fraga as the stylist defended himself against accusations of racism. Check the article and then read comments by BW of Brazil as well as comments from two readers who repudiated the show and the magazine’s defense of Fraga. 

“My runway parade was captured by the ‘politically correct’,” says stylist Ronaldo

The designer spoke to Marie Claire magazine about the accusations of racism he suffered after using steel wool hair applications at his last show at SPFW

by Mariana Sanches and Déborah de Paula Souza

Fashion remained in the background in São Paulo Fashion Week. The use of wigs made from Bombril, adopted by designer Ronaldo Fraga, has generated a wave of criticism and accusations of racism against the work. “My hair and my family are not like that, honestly no one has steel wool hair steel” or “People, and that hair that Ronaldo Fraga created, extreme bad taste to characterize blacks” were some of the comments posted against the stylist, mainly via Twitter and Facebook.
Models at 2014 São Paulo Fashion Week wearing steel wool/scouring pad-like wigs

In the last 10 years at the least, fashion has systematically adopted Caucasian standards of beauty. There is blond, straight hair, rinsed (even with chemical treatments based in formaldehyde and straightening irons at scorching temperatures), slender bodies, without any mention of curves, plentiful hips (so markedly African). All this said, however, didn’t arouse great anti-racism furies against discrimination. At this point, perhaps the defenders of the rights of blacks have dozed off. Or they were content with the 10% quota of black models for the runway that was reserved to them, Naomi Campbell, with her European features, emerging as the main representative today, even having a more than 20-year career.

Fraga: “shocked at the repercussions”

Interestingly, however, the parade of Ronaldo Fraga, who ended the second day of Fashion Week, has succeeded in awakening the ire of suddenly countless supporters of black rights. In the show, he and makeup artist Marcos Costa adorned the models with wigs of steel wool. The parade was a work of art, which incorporated the soccer heritage of the stylist football (Ronaldo’s father was a player). “There was never an homage to black people,” said the makeup artist Marcos Costa to Marie Claire magazine, whose adoptive father is also black. “If we had used only straight haired blondes, as everyone does, nobody would say that we are racists.”

black Brazilians
Runway model wearing controversial wig at 2014 SPFW summer edition

The runway in question featured white and black models. And it was not the first time that the use of steel wool was used. Ronaldo had already made use of the fixture in the “Eu amo coração de galinha (I Love Chicken Heart)” in 1996, in São Paulo. “I’m shocked at the repercussions because I’m mestiço(mixed race), grandson of a descendant of slaves and son of a mulato father soccer player,” said Ronaldo. “In the collection, soccer from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s was the object of research and not homage. The situation is a great irony because in the 30s black players were beaten in public when they committed a foul because soccer is of English origin and comes from a white elite. It was Brazil that soccer art was born with capoeira influences. And now, my show was captured by the ‘politically correct’.”

Makeup artist Marco Costa: “if we had used only blonds…nobody would say that we are racists.”
The steel wool on the head was nothing more than an aesthetic feature, a poetic license, a stylistic appeal. The Ronaldo Fraga detractors probably understand neither art nor blacks. Accusing him of racism would be like saying that Tarsila do Amaral is playful in her “Abaporu” portraying the Brazilian people in modernist lines. And thinking that the defense of blacks and their rights takes place in a histrionic arena, a compendium of insults and accusations devoid of connections with reality is at best naive, if not bad faith. The arenas of debate are posted: National Congress discusses morosely the creation of quotas for blacks in colleges and in the job market.
Ronaldo Fraga
Are those who stand to point the finger at Ronaldo already mobilized to help society to guarantee the rights of blacks? It is ironic that they have not produced against Deputado (Congressman) Marcos Feliciano (current president of the Human Rights Commission of the Chamber), openly racist, the same barrage of cybernet criticism destined to the Brazilian stylist.

Marie Claire is in favor of affirmative action policies for blacks and against hypocrisy.

Note from BW of Brazil: This controversy gets more interesting by the minute! First we have Fraga defending himself against accusations of racism by referring to his African ancestry in the same manner that Deputy-Pastor Marco Feliciano did last week in defending himself against similar accusations due to his comments about Africans. As we stated last week, the defense against racism by the evoking of African ancestry is common in Brazil as a great number of light-skinned mestiços (persons of mixed-race) and those socially accepted as white in fact DO have recent or distant African ancestry. But does it really matter? When a black person or a person who has been accepted as white for many years do things that are perceived to be racist, they in fact partake in the same racist tendencies as those who proclaim themselves to be white. 

Marie Claire magazine should also be called out for its lackluster defense of Fraga and the concluding their defense by proclaiming their support of Affirmative Action policies, as if this is supposed to wash their their hands and justify their defense. The great Malcolm X once said, “You don’t stick a knife in a man’s back nine inches and then pull it out six inches and say you’re making progress.” I also reject the magazine’s declaration that there hasn’t been protest against the invisibility of black models at important fashion events. This blog has covered a number of protests at these events, so is Marie Claire simply overlooking the fact or ignoring it to support their own point? It is even ridiculous to point out the idea that maybe militants in support of black representation are happy with the 10% quota of black model representation at these events when this quota for black models has been all but wiped out and ignored since it was established. 

Marie Claire, your support of Affirmative Action doesn’t negate your support of the type of racist display and mockery of black people for which Affirmative Action policies are necessary in Brazil in the first place. Either you are part of the struggle or part of the problem. And as most of the Brazilian media behaves in regards to black Brazilians, your support of this ridiculous spectacle makes you a part of the latter. 

Below are comments from Daniela and D on the same topic. At the bottom of the page are their original comments in Portuguese. 

Comments taken from Facebook and the page of the Marie Claire article

Daniela: The stylist is racist, using that known excuse of ours, “ah it was not racism, the neighbor of the father of my great-grandfather was a slave”, but it’s your fault and mine that we didn’t protest years ago and we are satisfied with the quotas of 10% black models at Fashion Week.

According to Marie Claire magazine, Ronaldo was a “phenomenon”, since no Fashion Week team highlights the hips so characteristic of black women. Another stereotype or not?

And that they apologized to so many of my black model and designer friends, but according to the magazine, if you were offended by this nonsense, it means that you do not understand anything about art or blacks. Well, I think that who does not understand anything about blacks is the magazine that makes a point of supporting a rascality like this.

And to finalize the journalists Mariana Sanchez and Deborah Paula de Souza are at the least uninformed, because they questioned the fact of who really is who is complaining about the runway, has already spoken out against Marco Feliciano, without taking into consideration that the black population has manifested actively against the election of thisman.

Finally, the article says that the magazine is in favor of affirmative action policies and against hypocrisy. Hypocrisy to me is a magazine that features a European standard of beauty in almost all its editions, speaking about blackness and diversity.

D: His justification was extremely stupid. I am black, woman, and plastic artist (the type that goes to college, (and has) Sociology, Semiotics, Art History, Philosophy, Anthropology classes) and this here is nothing poetic. It doesn’t matter if he is black, if he did so in good intention. He (and you, Marie Claire) apparently know nothing about sociology. “Hair of steel wool” has been used pejoratively to devalue African hair for years. People are not praised when they hear “steel wool hair.” This is pure social consciousness and worldview. The cultural value of the expression “hair of steel wool” is the same as “bicha (fag)” and “viado (faggot)” to homosexuals, “monkey” to blacks and other obliged and distasteful little nicknames. He, before all this clowning, did give a note saying it was a tribute to blacks. Why on earth is he going back then? You saw that he said that crap right? “Poetic freedom” does not justify in any way the use of stereotypes. If your collection was so poorly received, admit that you made a mistake. Racism does not only happen when you tie a black man to a tree. Racism happens every day. When the 10 year old girl is offended and rejected at school for having “hair of steel wool” and being black, when a black person is kicked out of a place because he has the “face of a thief” and when you make an unfortunate collection and try to seek intellectual asylum in the art to justify your lack of world knowledge and talent to deal with these issues that surround you. Um abraço (a hug). 


Source: Marie Claire

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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