Brazil may be home to the largest population of people of African descent outside of Africa but that doesn’t mean it isn’t rife was racism. Like most of South America, beauty standards favor fair skin and long, straight blonde hair, something many in Brazil work hard to attain.
Despite the country’s persistent racism and lack of positive media images of Black men and women, many thought Brazil was ready to turn the page and be more inclusive when Nayara Justino was picked to be the Globeleza carnival queen in 2013.
Carnival is huge in Brazil, and Globo, the biggest TV network in the country, names its own carnival queen, launching the career of one lucky young woman.
Justino dreamed of being the Globeleza since was six-years-old, and jumped at the chance to apply when it was time to pick a new queen. The actress and dancer wowed the judges with her beautiful personality and Samba skills, taking home the coveted title. But soon, her dreams turned into a nightmare.
In a video interview with the Guardian, Justino and others detail the threats and racism she faced after being named Globeleza.
Justino was called everything from a monkey to a darkie, and told she didn’t deserve to be the Globeleza because she was “too Black.” What hurt most, though, were that many Black Brazilians also thought she was unfit for the title because of her dark skin.
“Black people in Brazil are ashamed of being Black,” Neusa Borges, a Black actress explains in the video. “There are very few who will stand up and say, ‘I am Black.'”
As a result of the backlash, Justino was stripped of her title without much notice.
“They called me and said, ‘You’re not going to be Globeleza anymore. Thanks for your participation,'” she recalls.
Soon after, Globo announced Erika Moura, a lighter skinned “mulata,” would be the new Globeleza without even taking a public vote. Although Globo issued a statement to the Guardian saying it doesn’t “base its contracts on skin color,” Justino was never given a reason for her sudden termination.