via Fashion Indie
“São Paulo fashion week sells the image of a Swiss Brazil where everyone is white and blue-eyed. The organisers … forget that more than half of Brazil’s population is black,” says Frei Davi Santos, a Brazilian race campaigner behind a series of protests over São Paulo Fashion Week.
The seeds of the protest were planted in 2008 when an inquiry by São Paulo’s public prosecutor revealed that out of 1,128 models booked for fashion week, only 28 were black. Oranizers agreed to a voluntary two-year, 10% black model quota — affirmative fashion action — which many designers have reportedly ignored.
Protestors are now calling for a 20% quota in hopes of more accurately representing the Brazilian population, which is 50.8% black. However, that figure means nothing as consumers “still reject the combination of black [models] and luxury clothing”.
At least they do according to Vivian Whiteman, fashion editor of the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo. Whitey, as I like to call her, wrote an article on the Brazilian modeling industry’s rampant racism that included an interview with Bruno Soares, a booker of Afro-Brazilian descent.
“For historical reasons,” claims Soares, “Brazil’s black population has been poor and not a consumer of fashion. This is reflected in the casting.”
But for Frei Davi Santos, that bigoted cup just doesn’t hold water:
“Brazil is a country that still insists on emphasising its European side and discriminating against its beautiful indigenous and Afro-Brazilian populations. We do not want catwalks that look like catwalks in Switzerland or England.”
I am always perplexed by how Brazilian beauty is perceived, it seems that the mainstream (read: white people, mostly) often associate Brazilian beauty with an ethnic (exotic) look. Yet, the population that they reference is not usually the melting pot Brazil that I or any person who knows the demography of the country. Brazil has more African-American descendants than the US (outside of the African continent), although it seems one would never know that from media perception and coverage.
What troubles me most is that the beauty coming out of Brazil is often white girls with tans. I say this because many of the people in Brazil have European origins and are essentially no different than a German (Giselle) or Italian (Isabelli), yet the way we iconize them would be that the mixture of their looks is why they are beautiful. The mixed girls are usually not discussed or scouted.
The most worthy of mention is Adriana Lima who proudly admits a mixed heritage and does reflect a beauty (to me) that is indicative of Brazil. She is not fair skinned nor is she just tanned, but she does appear to be at least ethnically ambiguous which is how I think Brazil should be perceived. And that’s only half way to what I think we should see which are girls that look Afro-Latino a la Rosario Dawson, Zoe Saldana or even Halle Berry. I’m sure those kinds of girls can be found.