Like the rest of the diaspora, Brazil has had a complicated relationship with race. Although the country claims to be a “racial democracy” and boasts one of the largest black populations in the world, the country struggles with racism and prejudice much like its American counterpart.

Recently, the New York Times published an article about Brazil’s booming modeling industry, but as Erica Williams of the Ms. Magazine’s blog points out, things aren’t always as nice as it seems.

As the NY Times piece mentions, model scouts in Brazil routinely try to find women with “the right genetic cocktail of German and Italian ancestry, perhaps with some Russian or other Slavic blood thrown in,” but the reality on the ground is much different. Brazil is a country that boasts a large contingent of brown bodies, and over the years, darker skinned entertainers have been making headway in the country’s media. But in spite of this movement toward more inclusive images, the models that come out of Brazil have overwhelmingly European features.

One fashion expert calls the practice of presenting only European-esque models embarrassing: “I was always perplexed that Brazil was never able to export a Naomi Campbell, and it is definitely not because of a lack of pretty women,” Erika Palomino, a fashion consultant in São Paulo, tells the NY Times. “It is embarrassing.”

Williams argues that the big booty (often times brown) women used to market the country to tourists (men) are not the same women exported to the fashion industry for one reason only: Women of color are good enough to sleep with, but are rarely considered beautiful.

She explains:

Ironically, while scouts search Southern Brazil for women of European descent to fit into their standard of beauty, European and North American men travel to the northeast of Brazil seeking sex with women of African descent who they imagine as hypersexual. 

Walk to any newsstand in Salvador da Bahia and you will find dozens of postcards that use images of black women scantily clad in bikinis to “sell” the area to the rest of the world. This is nothing new. The figure of the mulata, or mixed-race woman of African descent, has long been represented in Brazilian popular culture as the epitome of sexiness. Exported abroad as early as the 1970s in Oswaldo Sargentelli’s world tour of samba shows featuring mulata women, now the term has become synonymous with “prostitute” for many European men who travel to Brazil for sex.

So, while women of African descent in Brazil may be considered “hot” or “sexy,” they are not considered “beautiful” enough to be models. In fact, as Barrionuevo states, “more than 70 percent” of Brazil’s models are from the “three southern states” that have had the heaviest influx of European immigration.

1 2 
Tags: , ,
Like Us On Facebook Follow Us On Twitter
  • df

    don’t care what lies the media and the public try to push down everyone’s throats, women of the african diaspora are beautiful and NO not just the women with european features….we all are….sick of the BS lies. Not paying attention to it anymore.

    • PGS

      I believe that is the point of the article…

  • TAE

    OOOOOOHHHH Yussssss! This is a concept well worth exploring and a discussion that we need to have. I have made an observation throughout my life that the number 1 compliment I receive from men is that I am sexy and/or they love my walk, I rarely heard the words beautiful or pretty until I moved out to the west coast. For the record I am a black woman with heavily afro-american features, wide nose, thick lips, brown skin and I am far from facially challenged. I am beautiful, as all black women, all women are, but my particular type of beauty has always been peculiar in this nation and it will never be honored universally like other types of women. This is a conclusion that I have drawn after years of living and interacting with human beings. I remember being 18 and being very angry when I started making the connections between the past (slavery) and the present. I wondered why every time I received a compliment from a man, usually a black men, it always began with the root word sex, sex-y lips, sex-y walk, just plain sex-y. But never beautiful. My body was exalted, never my face. And I am not alone in this, and the wonder why hyper sexuality is such a problem among our youth. The cold hard truth is that Black women were the original whores of this land, white women were the original beauty queens. So yeah we’re sexy, to let history and science tell it we’re hyper-sexy, and hyper-masculine too. Our bodies, our booty’s, our natural rhythm has always, and still brings, all the boys to the yard. But are we beautiful? To whom? Any ones opinion but our own shouldn’t be relevant in the matter.

    • Elle Michelle

      I have experienced the same thing, Tae. Black men usually refer to me as “sexy,” but non-black men say I’m “pretty.” It’s perplexing.

    • i love u truth sure

  • This doesn’t sound any different than how sh*t is done in the US.

  • QON

    I heard a Brazilian saying once, “White woman for marriage, mulatta woman a for sex and a black woman for work.” Then i thought, well where did the mullata women come from?

  • As a black man, I apologize for this type of stuff. This is real. We as brothers have to take responsibility (RESPONSE ABILITY) for this instead of blaming black women or white supremacy for this. How pathetic are we to really BLAME white supremacy? That’s like retreating and admitting we don’t run anything.

    It’s black males who fly to these islands to smash and it’s black males who talk trash about black women in magazines to television shows to rap songs. It’s black males who lie and manipulate to get in the drawls and then fall over in love with a white girl. It’s black males who allow the rest of the world to pick on black women and make them look bad, with them only defending themselves.

    So yeah, I’m a guy. And yeah this article is right. And yeah, black men are wrong. It’s nothing bad to take responsibility. We give our power away the more we blame. And then wait on that entity to do something, which never happens, which is why we’re here. So, as a black man that doesn’t participate, I’ll say, SORRY. And now, let’s start building each other back up.

    And yes, black women are beautiful AND sexy. ;-)

    • PGS

      “That’s like retreating and admitting we don’t run anything.” – TheBlackGuy

      Umm….we don’t run anything, though.

      White Supremacy is real and it permeates our entire culture/society. It’s like the Ozone layer….it’s always there, no matter how damaged.

    • Socially Maladjusted


      what the hell are you on about?

      and please don’t think you’re fooling anyone with the “masculine” screen name. Your “man speak” imitation is the lamest I’ve come across in eons.

    • Wow!

      You sound extra-chivalous and I agree with you in regards to the beauty of black women but….we dont run anything. Even the brothers who “run things” aint running a thing – and I mean this from the top on down. Thats why few of them put their asses on the line and stand for anything.

      I agree with you in regards to the messages in the music and magazine….but to put all of this on black men is not completely accurate and Im not sure it is helpful. On the flip-side black men are in fact seen in a similar light as black women. We ALL are reduced to parts and bits when it comes to white fascination with our sexuality and culture.

      Your argument is not very far off from the folks who say that Trayvon Martin’s death is a result of the way black men carry themselves in music and videos and other areas. Sure, that plays a part, but it excuses the ignorance and motives of the persons in control of the gun/media.

      Despite all of that I am sure the sisters approve of your positive message about them. I do too. But the healing you speak of will not happen by looking at one side of the coin. We need to all ask why the hell does what they say or think about how we look matter so much to us?

    • Socially Maladjusted

      granted, you do look like a man judging by your photo – but not a pretty one even then.


    • NoitAll

      Excuuuuuse me? All these “brothas” that go down to Brazil looking for the light skin women with big asses who can drop it like its hot. Brazilian tourism is big among Black men for that very reason. Yet, you don’t control anything? Is that a white man buying your plane ticket? Is that a white man sitting in your seat? Is that a white man unzipping your pants…? There is one thing you alone control, your dick. You can’t blame white supremacy for that.

    • NoitAll

      I should have said, your penis. i think its a little ridiculous to use derogatory terms for body parts. Apologies.

    • Grant

      When the most powerful man in the free world cannot comment on how blackness relates to the death of a teen, you know we don’t run stuff.

    • SMH. Well there you go… I’m an over-chivalrous guy who’s not a guy but maybe a guy who isn’t pretty… what?

      Like I said, this is response I get when I say to black men to take responsibility. No one wants to do it! Blame blame blame. You get to run stuff and you get power when you uplift women. That’s how white men do it you DUMMIES.

    • Socially Maladjusted

      You get to run stuff and you get power when you uplift women. That’s how white men do it you DUMMIES.

      This nonsense could only come from the most foolish type of woman.


      you get the power to run stuff when you work with your women folk CO-OPERATIVELY & COLLABORATIVELY to uplift your COLLECTIVE condition.

      Never heard of any freedom or power that was obtained by uplifting women and ignoring all the other IMPORTANT stuff.

      btw white men’s strength doesn’t come from uplifting women, especially his own – it comes from guns.


    • Well I think Black men are sexy too! Black love all day ‘er day!

    • Wow!

      ” . You get to run stuff and you get power when you uplift women. That’s how white men do it you DUMMIES.”

      On a blog for women, feminist women living in America you offer this gem? We don’t take care of women in America….never have….otherwise white women wouldn’t be pissed of with white men as well.

      Judging by your comment and blog bruh you have proven that even the most well-intentioned folks have no clue. I’ll stay out of your lane, young Baldwin….

      @ Grant: “When the most powerful man in the free world cannot comment on how blackness relates to the death of a teen, you know we don’t run stuff.”

      Real talk for dummies, I guess….

    • I think that this is a great comment and I thank you! I think there are 2 type of people in this world. The first type are those who constantly act victimized (when nothing has happened to them personally), blame others for the their problems, focus on the past instead of the future, and wait in vain for other people to change before they take control and improve their own lives. These people hinder their own happiness and progress, state that they have no power, and show that they have no power because they never try to improve themselves or try something different. It is best to NEVER follow these people because they are pessimistic, self-defeating, helpless, and overwhelmed.

      The second type is like this gentleman. The world is unfair but based on education and knowledge these people realize that it is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to change other people, so the best way to make changes is to CHANGE YOURSELF and allow others to react to you! So these people focus on what they can change and the resources that are available to them and they MAKE CHANGES in themselves and insist on changes in the people they actually have some control over (e.g., their children, family members, and close friends). YOU DO HAVE POWER! You don’t have to buy magazines that don’t showcase Black beauty, you don’t have to buy the music of artists who ridicule Black beauty, you don’t have to by the clothing of European designers who never employ Black women, you don’t have to shop in stores that don’t carry products for Black women, and you can use your dollars to boycott any company that disrespects Black women! You can also stop saying bad things about natural afro-textured hair or dark skin and stop saying non-Black women are better than your own women and stop reading blogs that say such things.

      All this White man is evil stuff won’t change anything because White people have no reason to change since they are in power! They only change to shut Black people up or because they feel guilty or that it’s their responsibility. Why are you waiting on your so called “enemy” to help you…that’s not what enemies usually do! Yet you continue to wait and complain to them while they ignore you and you continue to have a miserable life! If there is some White conspiracy to oppress Black people then you are letting them oppress you! Stop depending on them to save you and save yourself! It is IDIOTIC to listen to advice about how to succeed or find happiness from someone who believes they are powerless, helpless, and miserable!!!! They can only tell you how to be as powerless, helpless and miserable as themselves!!!!