VOGUE BrasilBrazil – outside of Bahia and other locales populated predominantly by Afro-Brazilians – isn’t the most racially-progressive nation.Racism is rampant. It’s evidenced by the blatant colorism displayed in Brazil’s media, the referencing of darker-complexioned Brazilians as “monkeys” and the black-face slave trope. There’s also hatred toward kinkier afros and other remnants of African heritage.

Fashion, a social institution known for its discrimination, has provided a platform to take Brazilian racism to the next plateau.

Brazilian stylist Ronaldo Fraga used F/W 2013 Sao Paulo Fashion Week to “pay homage” to Afro-Brazilians in soccer. He requested metallic hairpieces. Beauty artist Marcos Costa envisioned this as a brillo-pad, George Washingtonian contraption.

He tried it. “The supposedly bad hair is actually a potential sculpture,” he said.

Dissenters will claim this isn’t a racist act, but Brazilian context is required here. The scouring pad is referred to as a bombril in Brazil, but the word also has a negative connotation. Bombril is derogatory term used to insult Brazilians with cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) or what cabelo ruim (bad hair).

Black women in Brazil also deemed this “homage” as a blatant attempt to belittle blackness. A Brazilian blogger writes:

“The issue of society’s standard of cabelo bom (good hair) and cabelo ruim (bad hair) has plagued Brazil’s black community for centuries and continues to be a sensitive issue particularly for those who have experienced racist taunting or comments in regards to their hair texture. The consistent verbal and psychological assaults on the self-esteem of the African descendant are reasons that many black activists point to for the fragmentation and/or destruction of black identity in Brazil.”

Marco has denied blatantly disrespecting Afro-Brazilians on the catwalk.

“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’.”

Worst of all, VOGUE Brasil covered this without contextualizing it.

“Sharing space with hairpins and sprays, on the bench of the backstage parade of popular Brazilian stylist Ronaldo Fraga, was some unusual material: steel wool. In homage to the arrival of blacks in Brazilian soccer, the beauty artist Marcos Costa created a hairstyle using a range of metallic utensil. This served as a crown on the head of the models, fastened with strategically placed hairpins wrapping hair strands stuck into a low bun.”

Racism is intercontinental. Brazil, do better.


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