I don’t mean to beat a Brazilian Horse, but it looks like our neighbors to the south are at it again. On the heels of an article we shared this week about Globo TV airing a show about a white woman who “becomes” black by painting herself brown and donning an afro wig in order to sleep with a black man, the wonderful blog Black Women in Brazil shared another troubling story about the casting of the Brazilian production of The Lion King.

While producers of the show, O Rei Leão (The Lion King), supposedlyput out a casting call for black and/or brown children to play the lead roles of Simba and Nala, the finalists for the roles are reportedly white children who are artificially tanning their skin to fit the characters’ description.

A Brazilian newspaper, Folha de S.Paulo, reports:

The production of the Disney musical O Rei Leão (The Lion King) sought black or brown children to play the protagonists Simba and Nala in the Brazilian edition, which debuts in March. But most of the child actors in the final phase of auditions are white. Two finalists declared to the Folha news column that they are using tanning spray to darken their skin to suit the production. The T4F company, which is assembling the show, says it didn’t recommend the procedure to applicants. In American and English versions of the show, the protagonists are black.

It’s hard to imagine the producers of the show could not find any black or brown children to cast as Simba and Nala considering Brazil has the largest population of African-descended people outside of Nigeria.

But I guess it makes sense. Despite the country’s diversity, darker skinned Brazilians are almost always absent from TV and in the media, so it’s no surprise that the show’s producers would end up casting white actors to play roles traditionally held by actors of color.

Interestingly enough, the blog Black Women of Brazil (BWB) also said a production of The Color Purple was said to be heading to the country, but it’s apparently running into problems. The show, which would need an all-black cast, is having trouble securing funding from investors who are unsure if Brazilian audiences will pay to see an all-black show. Gatas Negras of BWB laments, “I guess that’s just how things go in a “racial democracy,” where race is not allegedly a problem…except when you’re black.

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  • Many years ago, before I was an adult I used to dream of living in Brazil because of its Black population. It seemed, at the time to be proud of its Afro heritage but that bubble was bursted long ago. It’s very unfortunate whats going on there, but I think its making minor improvements. Still a loooong way to go. Whats unfortunate is that their society at times pretends as if there is unity there. I’m not surprised at all that they picked white kids for the lead roles. Even if they were the best of the bunch, they should have just kept looking.

  • Kacey

    I’m no conspiracy theorist but there seems to be a concerted effort over the last few years to Europeanize and white-wash the image of Brazilian society. Its been happening for a while but I think it really picked up since Brazil was awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics and since the beginning of the current economic boom in that country.

    If you notice, the representation of what a Brazilian looks like has shifted from deeply tanned-skinned, dark eyes and thick curly/wavy black hair to lightly-tanned skinned, light eyes and blond hair. In other words, Brazilians who are descended from recent German immigrants (such as Gisele Bundchen for example) have become the face of Brazil. I read an article in the NYTimes that focused on model scouts specifically targeting German communities in Brazil for new super models and ignoring (completely shutting out) the typical Brazilian woman, who is of mixed African descent. There was a recent contest held there for “Best Butt” (or some other foolish title) and not a single woman of African descent was represented.

    These stories are not coincidental. They highlight was seems to be a deliberate cultural shift to [further] ostracize and alienate Afro-Brazilians and mixed-raced Brazilians from the public eye.

    • Yb

      That exactly what I thought as well. Because Brazil is becoming a world power the media is attempting to whitewash the image of Brasil and make it more desirable to
      Western tourists and investors.

      I heard many *racist* white travellers who expressed their surprise (more like shock and dismay) when they stepped of the plane and saw that Brasil was more black than the U.S. and U.K. I remember when Obama was reelected some white boy on Facebook expressed he’s going to Brasil to escape “nigger domination.”

      People are really clueless about the racial appearance of Brasil. Media influence and brainwashing is a powerful tool.

    • Sasha

      They’d rather welcome known Nazi war criminals and their descendents with open arms than embrace the African heritage and culture that runs through their own veins. So sad.

    • kelly

      I agree, But I feel like its also Latin America as a whole.. To me the contient is like a little Africa, But hopefully one day the brothers and sister will start their revolution, and force change…

  • Anthony

    I think the stories of open discrimination in Brazil are disgusting, really nothing will change until Black Brazilians raise a stink and don’t shut up until there is real reform.

    • DownSouth Transplant

      It’s hard to raise a stink when they systematically erase your racial identity, what do you mean you ask? I’m glad you asked, in Brasil the Afro descendant, when they have children & at the hospital depending on the shade/hue of their skin per the nurses/doctors vision/lighting they may be classified as white. I have met white Brasilians on paper & turned out darker than me with Afro’s curlier than mine in person. When i ask gently, they told me it is not what you actually are, or your parents race but rather the skin tone at birth, that is what the birth paper says you are & they rarely dispute what is put on paper.

  • Thank you for shedding light on the horrible racism that exist in Brazil. My mother is Lousiana and my father is from Sao Paulo, and they met in London when my mother worked as a model, and my father was on holiday. I am a product of BOTH, and had not met my grandmother from my father side until i was 10 years old. because she REFUSED to acknowledge me as her grandson. I have since mended my relationship with my paternal side of my family, and fact many of my cousins,aunts,and uncles are my most beloved aspects of of my ever growing family. When I am able to go to Sao Paulo, being an american, I can clearly see the ‘racial lines’ drawn just by observing the society. Most of the begging children are of my skin color, many of the people working at the resorts are of my skin color, etc. Once I made reservations at a 5 star hotel online, and showed up for my suite, and the person at the front desk was convinced that I was not who I said I was. Once I pulled out my american passport and spoke my perfect english, his face softened as he began to realize that I was NOT native brazilian but American. After understanding this, I put up a big fuss, spoike with the 2 managers, assuring them that I was American, in this was NOT the way we are accustomed to being treated. Needless to say I got my roomed comped, and a perfusion of apologies, but deep inside of me, it all felt empty. You see, If I had not pulled out that passport, I would have been expelled from the hotel, im sure of it. Racism is worse in Brazil because its accepted as apart of that society as apart of its ‘texture’, and as I was told by one of my elders, part of what makes brazilian people ‘beautiful in spirit’. I have since stopped going to Brazil, one because I cant afford to, but secondly. even if I could, by skin color makes me feel uncomfortable in the most unusual way. The hatred is not full of zeal or explosive like the KKK, but instead its a undertone, smooth, and appears at the MOST ‘invasive’ situations. I could be at the copa of on on one of the beautiful beaches, then suddenly you get THAT look from a white brazilian, a hate that is laced with a gracious smile and a greeting, but look into the eyes, and you know that they hate even shaking your hand. Im sorry, but I would much rather prefer the KKK, at least I could spot those idiots a mile away.

    • Sasha

      My heart hurt reading this….such a shameful culture.

    • Lima

      Hah you won’t find much overt racism in the northern regions of America. It’s subtle and invasive here too.

    • Debbie

      it’s a wicked world we live in.

  • Brazilians got problems.