“You count on your fingers the black women who occupy a role in Brazilian cinema or have a prominent role in a production”, says actress Mariana Nunes



Note from BW of Brazil: It is becoming common knowledge that Brazil was the nation that received the majority of enslaved Africans  between the 16th and 19th centuries and becoming just as well known is the fact that in terms of racial groups and society, the positions of blacks and whites, both statistically and in the public’s imagination, have changed very little since slavery was officially abolished in 1888. As we saw yesterday in a post exploring advertisements, discovering that someone is black or white most certainly brings to mind ideas about appearance, intelligence and employment and as we see two current running TV productions on two different television networks based in the slavery era, Brazil has no apprehension about continuing the maintenance of such race-based associations. And even as the black actresses are fully aware that they are participating in TV productions that could continue the legacy of such ideas, they also have clear understandings about the social reality in Brazil in the 21st century. Actress Mariana Nunes of the Globo TV novela Liberdade Liberdade, recently shared her thoughts in an interview that we bring you today. 

“Social inequality is not very different today,” says Mariana Nunes, of the novela Liberdade Liberdade

On the air as the slave Blandina, in the 11 o’clock soap opera, Mariana Nunes says that the character refers to her ancestors: “It’s a story to which I belong”

“The social inequality facing the country is not very far from the era portrayed in the novela,” says Mariana Nunes, on the air in ‘Liberdade Liberdade’ (Photo: Ricardo Penna)

In Liberdade Liberdade, Mariana Nunes, 35, plays the slave Blandina, who serves Dionísia, played by Maitê Proença. To Marie Claire magazine, the actress said that although the story is from 1800, it can be compared with the current Brazil. “The social inequality facing the country is not very different from the era depicted in the novela. I think that the reality is quite inspiring to perform in a work like this. I’m not talking about this political moment in which we live, even being difficult to separate one from the other. I’m talking about social inequality that has accompanied Brazil since those times.”

In an interview, the actress affirmed that this is a difficult role and explained why. “As a black woman, contemporary, to be representing a submissive character is difficult.”

“It is also a historical portrait, slavery existed in Brazil. There’s no way I can tell the story of my ancestors and not be remitted to something personal. My great-grandmother is the daughter of the lei do ventre livre (free womb law) (1), that is, her mother was enslaved. It is a history to which I belong.”

Beauty standards

Several actresses were without shaving because of the characters and Mariana said she has also avoided waxing, but ensures that this is not a problem. “I think we women live a very great stiffness in the standard of beauty. The other day I was watching in a social network a controversy about hair removal, I don’t remember what the case was exactly, but they came saying that a woman that doesn’t shave has a lack of hygiene. It’s so natural to have hair.  To say that a natural thing is disgusting for me doesn’t make sense. I would live well with my hair if necessary.”

Maitê Proença e Mariana Nunes como Dionísia e Blandina
Maitê Proença and Mariana Nunes as Dionísia and Blandina in ‘Liberdade Liberdade’

Career in film

Mariana has already done much work in movies like O Homem Mau Dorme Bem (The Bad Man Sleeps Well), Febre do Rato (Rat’s Fever) and Alemão – just to name a few. She said it was a natural path. “I started in theater in Brasília and there I did many pieces. But film eventually happened. I always wanted to do it but I thought more about TV in the beginning of my career. After I made my first film, I never stopped. The films are being released and people will see you more as a film actress and invite you to other works.”

Another of her film works is the film Pelé – The Birth of a Legend, in which she plays Celeste Arantes, mother of the futebol legend. “The film is very beautiful. It tells the story of a simple family, poor, black, Brazilian that goes through necessity and needs to survive. The mother has a resistance in the beginning with her son’s career because Pelé’s father, played by (singer/actor) Seu Jorge was also a futebol player, was injured and had his career interrupted, so she didn’t really want his son to follow this path.”


The film, shot in Rio, is an American production and has already debuted in the United States. In Brazil it’s forecast for the second semester. The actress said that this was the first time she performed in English. “I think it’s quite difficult. I’ve already spoken English, but was not so fluent. We had a lot of help, a dialect coach was with me directly.” Mariana does not rule out the possibility of pursuing a career abroad. “If an opportunity arises, I would try, yes.”

Asked if she thinks that today there is still resistance to put blacks in prominent roles or in positions of successful characters, Mariana believes this is a reflection of society. “It is deeply rooted like how people see blacks. They are very accustomed – badly accustomed – to seeing them in inferior positions and not in a prominent position of prominence…This unfortunately slides into works of fiction,” she said. “In a novela of the era it’s natural that blacks are slaves because of the era that’s portrayed. But people don’t think that in those times there were already free blacks, that they were already articulating and trying to somehow end slavery, riots had already happened. “

“You count on your fingers the black women who occupy a role in Brazilian cinema or have a prominent role in a production” (Photo: Ricardo Penna)

In film, she believes that diversity is not much different. “You count on your fingers the black women who occupy a role in Brazilian cinema or have a prominent role in a production. I think there are few opportunities that black actors have. In a film what are the black women are doing? They’re maids…Being in 2016 in this way I think that we’re still a little behind.”


Mariana spoke of racism and said the problem in Brazil is mainly institutional racism. “It doesn’t affect me, Mariana, I’m there with my career, battling, but it affects the great masses, the poor of Brazil that in its majority are black people, they’re suffering,” she said. “Institutional racism is not having a black person in universities before the quotas. Not in the classroom, nor on the bench of professors, only in  clean up. Or when I go to a restaurant into south zone Rio to eat dinner with my boyfriend or a party with my friends and I’m the only black person. In a restaurant, for example, the other blacks who are in the environment are serving me, sweeping the floor or in the kitchen.”

She ended by saying: “The big step is the representativeness. People need to get used to seeing black people in different positions in society. It’s necessary that the eyes of children get used to it, so that they grow up seeing that blacks are not only maids and their nannies.”

Source: Marie Claire


  1. Law from 1871 that ruled every child born of a slave woman was free starting from the date the law took effect on September 28, 1871.
About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. Here in America, Black women have power but they are taught to hate each other instead of unify. It’s very interesting that capitalism is dependent on the black female consumer but still programs them with images that degrades and dis-empowers them.

    • Trying to make sense of your comment,still I’m not getting anything. Do you even live in America? The ones with the most economic and instistutional power are White americans regardless of gender, while Black americans have the least, do BW have more power than BM? I doubt that.
      Black people of both genders have a serious problems with unity, which is part of the downfall of the Black Community in combination with White Supremacy.
      The article simply states that BW are more likely to buy more products for their households, that is not (economic) power of any kind.
      From 2014 Census Bureau ACS study (see charts below) 27% of all African American men, women and children live below the poverty level compared to just 11% of all Americans. An even higher percentage (38%) of Black children live in poverty compared to 22% of all children in America: So, I doubt capitalism is dependent on the black female consumer.

  2. Good post, it’s nice to see a prominent black person speaking out, most deny or downplay racism as they are not as severely affected by it as everyday, non-famous black people are.
    I’ve been thinking about the state of the African diaspora and I think I may have come to a possible solution.
    I read a controvesial article entitled ‘Racism
    thrives because black nations fail.’ I do not agree with everything the writer said (he’s black,Jamaican) but I get the gist of it.
    Racism is power+prejudice. Black people really do not have any type of power in this world, even in black african countries, blacks still remain powerless. Racism will never go away completely but if we had power we would be able to protect ourselves from it more.
    The writer states,” The day one black nation has top military, space and nuclear capability, racism goes into immediate remission.”
    What if the Africa rivalled Europe, and was predominantly first world ?On ‘seeing blacks in different positions in society.’
    Barack Obama (half white,though) became president of America was still subjected to vile racist abuse. It doesn’t really matter what position a black person is in, because in the end the racist, white supremacist mindset is still there.
    I think the solution may be to build up the African continent, if Africa rivalled Europe, America e.t.c we have no reason to run to/stay in countries where we are being oppressed and If Black Africans had the power to boycott and/or potentially go to war with countries where the diaspora is being oppressed: racism would soon diminish.
    I think the motherland reflects the diaspora concerning Europe and White people and Africa and Black people.

  3. Wulfhoarder is exactly right! There are considerable prejudicial acts that happen to the Chinese in the United States… but the Chinese government, more often than not, take care of those situations and deter them from happening again. Part of the genius of white supremacy is taking away our support system from the African continent (particularly West Africa), by controlling those countries behind the scenes. The problem is… that day will never come where a black nation will be foremost militarily or financially. The powers at be will never allow that sort of power into the hands of the Africans. THEY eat because WE don’t! We are the creators of culture around the world whether in Africa or whether we are a part of the diaspora, the same thing goes with athletics. If the Europeans allowed the playing field to be level in the societal aspects of life, scholastic or finance, then as cream always rise to the top, we would rise to the top financially, creating a power base to rival the Europeans. Which would then create a structure that would be able to retaliate against those that who commit racist acts against us. But again, that would never happen.

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