Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

Camila Pitanga on people questioning her blackness: "It’s as violent as if I was barred from a restaurant or a hotel because of my color."

black Brazilian women

Having captured the hearts of millions of Brazilians with her portrayals of several memorable characters in Brazil’s ever popular novelas, Camila Pitanga has earned her wings as a top actress and one of the most visible black actresses on the air. Her success is the fruit of hard work, an early start (appearing in the film Quilombo at age 6 in 1984) and having a famous father couldn’t have hurt (father Antonio Pitanga is a long-time actor). Of her role as Rose, an ex-domestic in the novela, Cama de Gato, Pitanga says: “I identify myself with Rose because she is a fighter and I have this reference in my family. My father is a man of humble origins from Bahia, he was a mailman and it was the arts that created his identity. Rose will not become an artist but she has a dignity that I identify with.”

Camila’s mother, Vera Manhães, was also an actress. Having two acting parents partially explains how Camila began so her career at such a young age. At age 12 she began studying theatre and earned her first role in a television mini-series, Sex Appeal, in 1993 at the age of 15. Since then, she hasn’t turned back, being a consistent presence on a number of popular novellas including 1995’s A Próxima Vítima, a series that portrayed the first middle-class black family in the history of Brazilian television. This was also a series in which she worked with her father, Antonio. She has also appeared in 1997’s MalhaçãoPecado Capital (1998). She would portray her first protagonis tin 2001’s Porto dos Milagres. Other career highlights include 2003’s Mulheres Apaixonadas in which she portrayed a neurosurgeon and Paraíso Tropical (2007),in which she portrayed the prostitute Bebel, a role that screenwriter  Gilberto Braga didn’t think she could pull off. Pitanga interpreted Bebel brilliantly in a role that but that would ultimately catapult her into sex symbol status and win her numerous awards.

Camila in her role as Bebel in Paraíso Tropical 
Pitanga is also not afraid to engage in discussions about the struggle of Afro-Brazilian actors and the question of race in general in regards to Brazil. Here are her thoughts on a number of questions posed to her.
How are you, Camila Pitanga, as a woman and black, in a country where racism exists in a veiled form?
In a country where racism, albeit in a veiled way, exists, I consider myself a privileged person,because my father, even in an era where prejudice was even worse, managed to educate us with the ethical principles that I intend to pass on to my daughter.He is my greatest example of overcoming and perseverance in life.

(In Brazil), November 20th is the National Day of Black Consciousness … For you,  is this a special date?

Of course! I’ll never forget the year that I celebrated this day with my father at a beautiful event that he directed and we had the presence of the great leader Nelson Mandela.

You and Taís Araújo were the protagonists in the novelas Cama de Gato and Viver a Vida, respectively. Does it feel like a special moment for black artists on television?

I think it’s a great achievement; however, I will point out that a full and historical achievement when a black person occupies the position of protagonist and the fact doesn’t generate more discussion or reports in the press. What I mean is: when this is so natural that no notices it as an exception but as a mirror of our reality.

How do you analyze the space of blacks in the arts, especially in TV and movies? Do you believe, like most, that there is a lack of good roles for blacks, but only the stereotypes (domestics, thief, drug dealer …)?

I believe that progress had been made and today the blacks stand out in important roles. I’ve acted in leading roles as a doctor and a model. Tais Araujo is portraying her third protagonist, we have the names of great black actors who have prominent roles in film and TV, like my brother Rocco Pitanga, Lázaro Ramos, Aílton Graça, among other important actors.

Camila and her brother Rocco re-create a photo of their parents Antonio and Vera
Your brother Rocco said he does not raise the black flag of the movement so directly. And you? How do you deal with the issue, since you are one of the black actresses with more visibility and respect from Brazil?
I’ve had opportunity to talk about it in an interview I gave to you. I consider myself active in the pro-black movement. I repudiate any form of prejudice, discrimination and aggression not only against blacks but against women, children, slave labor,etc. I believe that exercising social function is a choice of citizenship, regardless of the profession that the person occupies. I understand that my profession creates a focus of more attention and it’s good to have that I have to defend the causes that I believe in.
Over the years, Camila has also had to deal with an issue that many black Brazilians deal with on a daily basis, particularly those that possess a lighter  skin tone: the question of identity. Camila also addressed this issue:
It may be strange, but sometimes I’m embarrassed for not having remarkable stories of racism in my life. As much as I insist on reaffirming my black roots, people always think the opposite. It’s very uncomfortable and it is as terrible as the most pure prejudice. From the moment I became known to the general public, the situation became even more evident. I’m used to being stopped in the streets by people who find it strange the fact that my skin is light, my features are aquiline and my hair straight. They ask why I insist on saying that I am black being “so cute”*. It’s absurd. It’s as violent as if I was barred from a restaurant or a hotel because of my color. I am very like my mother, the former model Vera Lúcia Manhães, who has my color. My father, Antonio Pitanga, is black**. There were times when I was very saddened by this attitude, but today I face this more naturally. I don’t care, for example, the comments that I heard after being on cover of Raça Brasil (magazine).Some fans wrote and said that they did not understand the fact of me being interviewed by a publication directed toward blacks. I repeat: I’m black.
Camila seated next to her mother, Vera. 

* – This verbal exchange is common for black Brazilians of all skin tones

** – I’m intrigued by Camila pointing to only her father as black. Although it appears that her mother, former model and actress Vera Lúcia Manhães,  may have been lighter-skinned when she was younger (see photo above with Antonio), today she appears to be quite dark-skinned. It is of course also possible that her mother could identify herself as a person of indigenous descent.

15 comments on “Camila Pitanga on people questioning her blackness: "It’s as violent as if I was barred from a restaurant or a hotel because of my color."

    February 11, 2012

    Very interessing

  2. gabriel
    May 3, 2012

    I do not understand, I am Brazilian and I do not see it as black. see how mutirracial or brown, I see that black people bought the idea ​​racist of whites, which is not 100% white is not white, and if you has ancestor black you are black, camila is white and black, mutirracial, a mixing .

    • LSXZ
      March 15, 2016

      the mother of camila pitanga isnt white your stupid shithead

  3. Fa'niyi
    May 7, 2012

    from someone born in north america, lived there for 22.5 years, moved to caribbean and lived there for 13.5 years, these labels are not needed. black, white, brown, yellow, mulatto, etc.really, sometimes it is frustrating….i was jus talkin to my father today an' by chance (if you/we believe in that) he made mention of that there is no more, or very little left, pure blood people because of inter-mixing. he said that the people of this world, their genes, are getting "watered down" or diluted because of mixing. i think this "mix" of race is inevitable; eventually there will be only one people and that people will have some level of melonin or more commonly known as "COLOR". a beautiful thing if you ask me.i just found about this blog from a group i just joined on facebook calledMestizaje y Criollismocheck it out, you might like it….was reading about spike lee coming to brasil to begin the recording of a documentary about people of african descent in brasil. i gonna look to watch it for sure. take a look if you haven't alreadypaz

    June 23, 2012


    June 23, 2012


    June 23, 2012

    im happy to see she claims her black culture

    • Julia
      September 11, 2013

      Starting with her African hair…and her white skin boyfriends…guys she is categorised as white for most of brazilians.

      Her brother as mulato. What she has of blackness? Only her parents and her brother. I do think this law of one drop =black it is americanism

      She does nothing for the black moviment in Brasil

      • LSXZ
        March 15, 2016

        Julia her brother isnt mulato, her brother is dark skinned, he is negro, stop hating on americans it is hypocrisy, I am brazilian, and her broither isnt mulatto you dumb fuck, mulato is a person who have black and white parents, their parents are african descent, dumbfuck, how can her brother be mulato you dumbfuck? I see many people with the same complexion of him in angola, shithead!!!

  7. Pingback: Research shows that the way Brazilians see the color of celebrities reveals “racial” criteria in Brazil | Black Women of Brazil

  8. Black Dove
    November 18, 2013

    This woman’s parents are clearly of African descent, so she has EVERY right to assert her African heritage in spite what others may think!!! We have no choice but to accept this. Tell me what are you going to do about it, stop watching her movies because she doesn’t call herself white? Persons of African descent come in varied shades. What matters most is how the individual sees herself/himself. This woman has identified herself as a black woman. Accept this! It’s her life, her choice. People, there is a VERY rich culture, history, and tradition that goes along with being black. It isn’t just skin deep. This woman is very intelligent. She understands this well. She should be given her proper respect.

  9. Issy V
    February 18, 2016

    Don’t tell me that Braziliand are picking up that racist one drop rule american bullshit please…ahe doesn’t have to explain her blackness or have to choose one race or the other.

    Only slave traters used it back in the colony to keep lighter blacks as slaves and know American wanna push it there too? Afro Brazilians is a made up term, there’s only BRAZILIANS. The whole hyphenated crap is only to separate like “I don’t really belong and I need to explain my origins, even though I’ve never been there”.

    What’s next? Mixed/multiracial people choosing one color over the other?

    • LSXZ
      March 15, 2016

      we aint picking up one drop rule, dumbshit, all you said is bullshit, race only exist one; the human race, go read some books, you wrote gibberish, how can people understand what you wrote?

  10. kate
    July 1, 2016

    Antonio Pitanga is not her real father. her real father is white , that really explain her white skin

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