Note from BW of Brazil: I can still remember the first time I saw actress Taís Araújo. In late 1999, I had been hit with the “Brazil bug” and wanted to know everything I could about the country, specifically the situation of the black population. I had only been using the internet for about a year by then and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I still couldn’t read Portuguese too well, but I wanted to learn as much as I could. Doing various searches, I came across several sites in English where people discussed all sorts of topics dealing with Brazil. On one of the sites, I met a young black woman from New York who had already visited Brazil. She explained to me what it was like discussing race with Brazilians and general offense people take when you point out any racial issues there. In the short period I had been participating in the discussions, I saw that this was true.
I exchanged e-mail contact with the woman from New York and continued our dialogue. As our correspondence continued, she asked me if I had already seen the magazine Raça Brasil. Debuting in 1996, it was the only Brazilian magazine specifically targeting the country’s black population. Being new to the “Brazil thing”, I was soaking up all of the information I could. Somewhere along the line, I came across an article talking the magazine and how black Brazilians, starving for some representation in the media, had snatched up every copy of the magazine after the release of its first issue. Needless to say, I was anxious to get my hands on a few issues. The girl from NY (as much I remember about that time, for the life of me I can’t remember her name) told me that while she was in Rio, she bought several issues of the magazine and would be willing to send them to me if I wanted them. “Of course!”, I wrote, sending her my address in Detroit. Less than one week later, four issues of Raça Brasil arrived via express mail.
I opened the envelope and one of the first covers I saw featured a cover of actresses Taís Araújo and Isabelle Fillardis. “Whoa!”, I thought to myself. “There are sistas that look like this in Brazil?” Again, as I had thought when I first learned about Brazil’s black population for the first time, I wondered, “Why have I never seen faces like these before?” I know many people outside of Brazil had seen images of Rio’s famed Carnaval, but I had never really paid attention to them.
Seeing the faces of Araújo and Fillardis on that magazine cover wasn’t shocking in what they looked like. In reality, I’d seen black women who look like them in the United States, I had just never expected to see these faces in Brazil. My reaction to the faces in those issues of Raça Brasil was somewhat similar to what veteran Afro-Brazilian journalist Carlos Alberto Medeiros described when he saw Ebony magazine for the first time. Brazil didn’t have any magazines devoted to black Brazilians and to this day, most magazine covers would make you think you were somewhere in Europe rather than a country that had a huge black population. As Medeiros said, “…that was almost love at first sight.”
Araújo, Fillardis, the Raça Brasil magazine, the music of artists such as Clara Nunes, Jorge Ben and Banda Black Rio and the film Quilombo were just a few introductions to black Brazil that intensified my desire to visit the country and the know the history of African descendants in this giant country. By September of 2000, I had made that first magical trip.
In the first decade, I became quite familiar with numerous important and famous Afro-Brazilians, but Taís Araújo’s star just seemed to get bigger and bigger. I remember sometime between 2001 and 2002, in a supermarket, I had seen a Spanish language tabloid magazine that featured Araújo, speaking of her racy debut on television. In her early years, Araújo provoked controversy for the nude scenes she filmed in the TV series about the famous Afro-Brazilian woman and former slave, Xica da Silva. Araújo was still a teenager at the time. By about 2004, Araújo had begun to rack up a number of important accomplishments.
As Afro-Brazilians were either invisible or playing stereotypes on the big and small screen, seeing Araújo breaking new ground for black actresses inspired many black Brazilian women to push forward and pursue their dreams. With the passing of the great Ruth de Souza, another trailblazing Afro-Brazilian actress, last year at the age of 98, Araújo paid homage to a long list of Afro-Brazilian actresses, past and present, who have followed in Souza’s footsteps. In the article below, we learn how a number of current Afro-Brazilian actresses recently paid homage to Taís for her trailblazing success, representation and activism.
Taís Araújo is honored by Jéssica Ellen, Erika Januza and other actresses
Courtesy of Yahoo
Last week, Taís Araújo started a chain of strengthening on social networks, after posting, on Instagram, a photo of Isabel Fillardis and telling how the actress, already known at the time she took her first steps in artistic life, inspired her career. Accompanied by the hashtag “#Atrizqueinspira” (actress that inspires), the publication generated a movement among other black actresses, who took the opportunity to pay tribute to Taís herself, who plays Vitória in the novela (soap opera) Amor de Mãe.
”When I started she was already shining. It was a lot because she was there where I also wanted to be. Knowing that she could made me feel (it was) possible too. Thank you Bel, for being my first great reference. Isabel Fillardis is an actress, singer, host, producer, mother of 3 children,” wrote Taís about Isabel.
The first to respond was Isabel Fillardis, returning the affection of her professional colleague:
“Whoever looks at us thinks we are sisters. No. We are not. At least not in this life. Or they think we’re cousins. We are not. I have known Taís, for me “Tatá”, for decades, and at some point in our lives, some commas made the physical distance take over. But neither physical distance nor malicious people could interfere with anything strong: love. I follow and watch her grow by merit, talent, dedication, sleepless nights, tears on the pillow that only she knows where to drain. Taís inspires me with her courage, audacity, impetuosity and talent. And she flies … and she will fly higher. Only now holding hands with me. Not just with me. With us. I love you, my sister!”.
The words of admiration were echoed by Dandara Mariana, Bel of the Globo TV novela Salve-se quem puder
“Tatá, how hard (it is) to talk about you… It’s so much that I get lost … I get lost in the dazzle of having known you and living with you since I was 7 years old… Watching your rush, dedication, disposition, joy and beauty made a total difference in my life! Action-inspired! There are so many moments! From school holidays to various Christmases. For 25 years… Wow! I was lucky to be very close to the most coolest black woman in the history of Brazilian television! It’s transformative for a girl. I can only admire you, since then! And I only have the most positive adjectives followed by exclamations for you! It was impossible not to grow up wanting to be similar to Taís Araújo. There are millions of girls imbued with the same feeling. This is called axé! This is called light! It is redundant to say that I love you deeply. And I love Taís Bianca (hahaha because black has a double name!), Araújo, all of Brazil loves you! She is intangible cultural heritage of humanity! It is already decreed and the slaying occurred on the day that Mex aimed at the moon and fell among the stars. What comes after you is the seed of sowing. I also cannot leave my deep love for each member of your family here registered, explicit and published. And to say that: I wish you nothing less than the whole world. Just go!”
Jessica Ellen, who also wrote a long text on Taís, with whom the actress appeared opposite in Amor de Mãe:
“This is Tais. I grew up watching her on TV, stamping magazine covers and starring in beauty campaigns. She helped me build my self-esteem and believe that it was possible. The years passed and what was a girl’s dream came true: we met in 2013. Since then, many exchanges, many learnings (mine and hers) and also many differences, but, above all, much respect and admiration for all her history and trajectory. Dona Ruth (de Souza) opened doors, Zezé (Motta) passed through, Isabel arrived and Taís made a point. Building new possibilities for thousands of black girls. I grew up admiring, mirroring myself and also projecting my dreams on her. Today, I continue admiring and not projecting that much. It’s important. It’s part of maturing. Before any premiere of mine, we exchanged phone calls that always ended with the following sentence: ‘Calm your heart’.
Before Amor de Mãe debuted, I called with the same intention, but the conversation was different. I said: ‘I’m scared, prime time. Now what?’ She turned to me and said: ‘I’m scared too’. A part of me found it strange to hear that, I was waiting for the emblematic phrase: ‘Calm your heart’. But, another part, celebrated. It was the first time that I managed to look at her and see her fragility. And it was beautiful to see up close, all her deconstruction and delivery to give life to (the character) Vitória. Today, I look and see a powerful, beautiful, versatile, talented woman, who is also afraid, who makes mistakes, who does it right and is always on the move. A human woman.”
Another member of the cast of Amor de Mãe, Erika Januza left her message for Taís:
”To speak or hear her name, immediately refers to pride, belonging, identification. How many times have I been able to watch TV or advertising and “see myself”? Few. But she was there, somehow rescuing us. Encouraging. Today this reality changes little by little, it grows and much of it, comes from the path that she has taken. I am grateful! A woman who made, makes and keeps making it happen. Thank you Taís for every moment when we black women feel part of a whole. Yes, it’s possible!”
A veteran of the small screens, Cris Vianna also paid tribute to Taís on Instagram.
‘As an actress, I had several amazing women who inspired me. And on some difficult days, at that moment when I almost wanted to give up, I remembered them. It starts with Ruth de Souza, Zezé Motta and following my path comes our beautiful Isabel and you, Taís Araújo. A face that looks like a doll, so perfect. Beautiful and with an emotion that delights everyone with her characters. And throughout your career you have made important choices that, without knowing it, were not just for you. But, yes, for all of us black women. Thank you very much! Its trajectory enchants those that have been, strengthens all of us who still walk and is in fact a dream for those who will come. You are a giant. Receive my affection and sincere hug.”
Juliana Alves took advantage of the chain to talk about Taís Araujo, citing that she was compared to her character in the novela Xica da Silva:
“There was a time at school that I had the nickname Xica da Silva. My hair was short and had a texture like hers. They spoke to make fun of me, but they didn’t know that in my silence I hid a new joy. Her appearance, her prominence and her success was something powerful, which marked my adolescence. It strengthened my self-esteem in such confusing times. Just her success and the place she came to already speaks volumes! But she didn’t sit on the pedestal. Over time, she realized the power she has and with that she realized how she could further influence people’s lives. She widened her look and her listening. She realized that she needed to be careful with her words because her voice is so powerful. She got bigger. And my admiration for her went along! Today, we are closer, today we are closer than ever. Hand in hand with so many sisters, with so many stories … Taís, thank you for allowing yourself to be much more than an icon! Thank you for your effort and your dedication to unite and enhance victories. Thank you for your movement! May we meet soon and have some good business! lol Toast to our struggle! Toast our victories!”
Lucy Ramos also spoke a little about Taís or, as she calls her, “Tatá”:
“With you, Taís Bianca de Araujo Ramos, better known as Taís Araujo and, for the most intimate, Tatá. Great actress, host, mother of two, wife, native of Rio… For 25 years she has been giving us her talent. How lucky I am to get into this profession and have her as a reference. You somehow told me it was possible. And with your determination, persistence and wisdom you continue to strengthen us and saying to those who have not yet heard: we are many, we are diverse! There is a path of possibilities. Gratitude, my beautiful, for so much. You are light, you are love, you are generosity, you are welcoming, you are struggle, you are victory!”
And the outpouring of admiration just kept coming…
“Taís is that sun on earth that we already know. But for an artist and black woman she is much more. She guided the way and the certainty that I would get where I wanted. Time passed, admiration became love and even today seeing her on stage moves me. Let it be clear that contrary to what the market preaches, black actresses are united and support each other. Taís’ victory has always been my victory too. I love you, sis”.
Luellem de Castro
“Curiosity: When I was little Luellem I did a participation in something of Globo (TV) and when I was leaving I saw Lázaro (Ramos, actor, Taís’s husband) and Taís at the door. I was very happy. Lázaro put his hand on my head and said ‘Look how beautiful! Now you can play our daughter into some soap opera. I looked at Tais and thought, ‘Could it be? Her? My mother?’. Childish nonsense. Taís, you rock. Thank you so much for being there.”
“I hold my hand in yours, I close my heart to yours, so that together we can do what I cannot do alone. Thank you for being an inspiration and welcoming to so many of us. Much love”.
“We actresses, black women, do not fit into a single specific role, we are many, multiple thoughts, multiple origins, multiple possibilities. That is synonymous with wealth!” Those are the words of Taís in an interview for Vogue… And I make mine, her words! In this same interview she quotes several incredible actresses who have been waiting for good opportunities for a long time… And when I read my name, I almost had a breakdown! She said ‘Jeniffer Dias, a wonderful actress!’ and it reverberated in me for a long time… Despite the sorrows of our profession… I must tell you that I feel deeply happy and even ‘special’ to be seen by you! I saw you on my little TV there in Niteroi (Rio state), and even in my best dreams I couldn’t imagine that… thank you, thank you and thank you! So much love for you! For your existence! You inspire many girls who have a similar origin to mine!”
“Taís came to me as Xica, and it was very good to see. She brought to the character a bold look of abuse and audacity. That I read as courage, there are people who say life is made by destiny and there are others who say that it takes courage to accept destiny and the will to embrace luck. And that’s what you are to me: courage and the will to follow, to move forward, to remake the path if necessary, to understand that there are hits and mistakes but always to keep on. This courage and will that inspires us, that inspires me. You inspire me.
Taís in turn returned the affection of her professional colleagues in an emotional post on Instagram:
”Today I cried. I cried with emotion, I cried with love and for love. I thank my sisters on the path, and I say with great pride that we are not alone, we are many, we are multiple, with different thoughts, different skin tones, but with the same certainty: that our love and our respect for our stories and for ours is what strengthens us! I am because you are! My greatest wish is to see them shine more and more, count on me for this, always! I love each one of you! Kisses full of love and respect!”, wrote the artist.