Brazilians Call for More Black Models at Rio Fashion Show

January 16, 2012  |  

In 2009, quotas were imposed during the Sao Paulo Fashion Week requiring at least 10 percent of the models to be black or indigenous, but one year later that requirement was eliminated. Now, after outrage over the lack of brown skin at the Rio de Janeiro winter 2012 fashion week show, it’s likely a move to reinstate those quotas could succeed.

From Wednesday to Saturday of last week, 24 designers displayed their fashions on models who were overwhelmingly white during the show—a move you simply cannot pull in a country with the second largest black population in the world, according to Father David, a Franciscan friar who leads the Educafro non-governmental organization, which lobbies for the rights of blacks and indigenous people on the labor market.

“You just can’t discriminate against blacks in Brazil, where 51 percent of the population is black or mixed-race. I think that the justice system will react favorably to our pressure and this decision will influence the fashion world across the country,” he says.

Typically, less than 3% of the 350 models used in the show are black, a fact which prompted the 2009 quota. Father David says he appealed the ruling reversing the quotas and said a hearing was scheduled for January 15, four days before the scheduled opening of the show, but his point of view apparently went unheard.

Luana Genot, 23, is one of eight black models out of more than 200 who are employed by the main Rio modeling agency, 40° Models, and she says the discrimination is blatant.

“They call us only when the the theme of the show is linked to black culture. I am often told: What am I going to do with your hair? And for make-up, I am always the last so as not to dirty the brush with overly dark tones.”

Last June, during Black Consciousness Week, Genot organized a debate on “ethnic diversity in fashion” at Rio Catholic University to discuss how to inflict change.

“We are told that the winter collection is for whites in Europe or that black women’s butts are too big, their hips too wide. I am shocked to see that in Brazil, where more than half of the people are descendants of black slaves, there is so little space for us.

“Brazil’s population is very mixed and this must be reflected in fashion,” Genot says.

Even models like Bruna Loureiro, a blue-eyed blonde, have been dropped from shows because her skin was found to be “too golden” when the label wanted “very pale skins.”

Unsurprisingly, the issue of black acceptance is not limited to the fashion industry in Brazil. Already, the country has adopted quotas for underprivileged blacks to get into universities much like Affirmative Action here in the United States. Given the lack of black runway models here in the U.S., both countries still have a long way to go.

Do you think there will ever be equal space for black models on the runway? Are you surprised there’s so much discrimination in a country like Brazil with such a large black population?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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  • Brazil is one of the MOST xenophobic/ racist countries in souther america. I am half brazilian/ Creole louisiana, and my grandmother from my father side of the family REFUSED to even acknowledge my existence, UNTIL I bought a ticket down there on my 18th birthday and “put my blackness in her face”. Now we are the best of friends, and I adore her deeply. (she has even since then learned english). When I visit, its often disheartening, as the favelas are simply deplorable. The way that darker people black brothers and sisters are treated is disgusting, and WOULD NOT be tolerated in the US of A. I remember one incident, where i was in a bar. The young man behind the bar (white brazilian) starting speaking portuguese, but from what I understood, was VERY condescending. When I said ” I am black american, do you know english”, his attitude  shut off like a light switch, and he was all smiles and conversation for the rest of my stay,( even tried to flirt, but i was NOT having it!!!) Racism is so ingrained into the culture down there, till many people think that it is simply,..ok.

  • Torontochick

    Bring on that quota!

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  • Jimmy Swaggerd

    The model in the picture should smile. 

  • Ladye1988

    Wow thats crazy. I think brazil has some of the most beautiful people, culture and all .They always praising Adrianna Lima and Gisselle Bunchin(however u spell her name!!) who are two gorgeous Brazilian women,the ” brazillian booty” (which they most likely get from their black descendents)–alla dat exotic s#*t, but as soon as its associated with blackness, it doesnt count…beauty is beauty..POINT BLANK PERIOD!! and it doesnt discriminate against race,ethnicity,etc…

    • Ldplays

      Ive been to Brazil and I was expecting to see these exceptionally beautiful women, but I didnt see that.  They were just as beautiful as the women in America.  With that being said, Brazil is definitely a country where the rich prevail.  The poor in Brazil make those in Camden NJ look like Steve Jobs.  And they dont respect the blacks there, at all

  • Easyotega

    Dame to hell with people having the hearts of racist, why on discrimination still exist in brazil where the population majority are blacks, who cares about blacks in Argentina, were the world population can not find a single black player not players in Argentina soccer National team, I say to hell with you.

  • DamnThatChucker

    when will some of these white people learn that they are not God’s gift to humans? They are not the only people in the world and they are definitely NOT the most beautiful. But then again no race is. To each it’s own, that’s why they need to showcase many ethnicities. Some designers make me NOT want to purchase their merchandise because in their runway shows and ads they only cater to whites and the last time I checked, I WASN’T white.

    • Kelly

      Well, when you have black women on blogs and magazine going on about how better they are and how to date them to create kids who have their DNA ……..can you blame em?