The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent
Glória Maria was one of the first profiles ever posted on this blog. On November 19 of 2011, this was the short bio we posted about her:
“A long-time, well-respected journalist, she is the closest thing to Oprah that Brazil has ever produced (in regards to black women journalists). She was the first black female journalist to ever work for Brazil’s top TV network, Rede Globo, the first black host of the popular news journal, Fantástico, and also has the distinction of being the only Brazilian journalist to ever interview Michael Jackson. Maria accompanied Jackson in 1996 during the recording of his video for the song, “They Don’t Care About Us” which was recorded in the Brazilian cities of Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. See the video here
Get to know a little more about one of Brazil’s most important journalists in the two interviews below
The career of Glória Maria is much too important to the accomplishments of the Afro-Brazilian community to only devote one short paragraph to her. Thus, below is a little more about her, her life and career in her own words taken from two interviews.
Glória Maria is a reference in the history of Brazilian television. She was the first black television reporter and acheived various career conquests to become the first and only black journalist to co-host Fantástico, the main news program on Brazil’s top TV network, Globo. Surrounded by myths, Glória Maria is from a time when journalists were not treated as celebrities; she continues to hide her age, take her pills and flee from standard relationships. But now, she is learning a new craft: mother
In an interview conducted on the Day of Black Consciousness in Brazil (November 20th), the journalist recalled her path and how she overcame prejudice with hard work.
How important is Black Consciousness Week (in Brazil)?
Glória Maria: The consciousness of being black is something that we have to have every day, 365 days a year. Not just in one day. But the date is important to reflect, as we have a life increasingly fast-paced and we have to take time to stop and think about what we are and why we are here. We have to discuss it, touch the wound. I try to convey this consciousness to my children, to show them who they are.
Do you think society is evolving in terms of prejudice?
Glória Maria: The policies exist but prejudice doesn’t change with law. The law can only intimidate, but it does not change the feeling. Nor can we rob and kill, but there are several people who do this. Everyone knows that prejudice is a petty feeling, but they don’t stop feeling it. It continues as it always was: veiled. Only that people today have more modesty, for fear of being recriminated. It’s just another disguise. In spite of everything, it’s important that the laws exist.
What can be done to improve this situation?
Glória Maria: The situation improves with culture, education and making everyone conscious. But in fact, the only ones who can change this are blacks themselves, they have to learn to change internally. You have to give value and not look (at things in) pity. Nor use color as an excuse for failures. Consciousness has to begin with us. We have to know our value and our power.
Have you ever experienced prejudice?
Glória Maria: I have experienced it many times and I experience it today. The difference is that people today are more careful because I’m a public person.
Do you think you had a more difficult path because of your color?
Glória Maria: I was the first black television reporter. The first to present the seven o’clock news, the first to command Fantástico … But I had to face many barriers and obstacles to achieve things. Everything is harder for a black person. You must prove 100 times that you are better. It’s exhausting, hard, painful. If you do not have extraordinary strength, you can’t go through it. But I came into the world to fight. I’m a warrior!
Unlike the girls of her age, Glória was not raised to marry. “My grandmother said that I had to be free, that was the most important thing. And that I was not to depend on any man.” She said this because she saw slavery closely. “My great-grandmother was a beneficiary of the Lei do Ventre Livre (Law of the Free Womb) (1), says Glória, in an environment far removed from her childhood spent in the poor suburbs of Rio. We are at a restaurant in Leblon, an upper middle class neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, where she has lived for over 20 years, in an apartment on the block of the beach (one of the most expensive square meters of the city).
Glória is half an hour late. And she walks in very high heels. She wears jewelry, a designer handbag and almost no makeup. Her chauffeur waits at the door. And during the nearly two hours we spent in the area, her three phones didn’t stop ringing. She carries a BlackBerry, an iPhone and a radio. “They’re already calling my house again. This thing here is exciting”, she says, laughing. The reason for such excitement is not just the job, but the life of a single mother of Laura, 2 years old, and Maria, 3, sisters whom she adopted in 2009.
Since we were kids, we saw her on TV. First, as a reporter doing amazing things such as flying in a hang-glider and mountain climbing in the Himalayas. Then, as host of Fantástico, a position she held for ten years. After two years away from the TV, she came back and now doubles as a reporter for the Globo Repórter.
The journalist carries the trump card of having been the first black reporter at Globo and the first to host the Sunday program. “Many people didn’t conform, as if it were an aggression that I was there,” recalls Glória, for whom racism does still exists. And a lot.
However, she doesn’t waste time lamenting. She breaks barriers not only in her professional life. Once married, but separated because she didn’t want to live together. She lives in a relationship “without labels.” She didn’t think about having children until meeting Laura and Maria and changing her lifestyle. The woman who created myths in not revealing her age (and she’s still not telling. She’s estimated to be 60 years old) and affirming that she takes hundreds of pills per day and is cutting edge without raising a flag. And totally hyperactive. “You’ll think I’m crazy, right? I do a thousand things at once”, she says, while turning to the driver to tell him he needs to leave the present at the house, take the girls to the party, go back to the mall to pick up her up, which she decides to spend at another store and ….this is what a day with Glória Maria is like.
How did you become a journalist?
Glória Maria. I didn’t think of becoming a journalist nor did I dream about it. I was very good at writing in school. And once, a friend who worked at Globo told me he had an opening for an internship there. I went and stayed. At the same time, I started working at a telephone company that was state-owned at the time. It didn’t make sense to work for nothing! That was a luxury I couldn’t even think of doing. And the internship was unpaid. For a year, I worked two jobs, including weekends. My life was like that: I came to Globo at eight in the morning and left at eight in the evening. I went to my pre-college prep courses, then I would go home and sleep for an hour. I would wake up in the morning and spend the morning at the telephone company. I did this for a year until Globo hired me.
Did you ever imagine that one day you would become famous?
Television journalism itself was just starting. It didn’t have this glamorous thing that people imagined and I didn’t think of appearing on TV. It didn’t exist. When I started, reporters investigated, but didn’t appear. I was happy that I could earn a living writing. And there was another thing. Jornal Nacional was hosted by Cid Moreira and by Sérgio Chapelin. Period. That was an institution. The big dream back at that time was to be a reporter for Jornal Nacional.
What do you think that journalists who get into TV today dream of?
I think the dream of being a reporter doesn’t exist anymore. Reporting has become only a path for you to reach your true dreams, which is to host a program and become a celebrity.
But did you have the dream of being a celebrity?
Of course not! That didn’t exist! Nobody was famous in journalism. Only Cid and Sérgio. Celebrity culture didn’t exist at the time. How can you dream about something that didn’t even exist? And then, when I became a reporter that appeared on Jornal Nacional, I was riding a bike to work and then to the beach with an incredible team. No one thought anything (about it) anymore because I was a journalist.
Are you a workaholic?
I never was. Journalism is a passion for me. It never really felt like it like a job. And, as I was born in very poor family, I was accustomed to a hard life and no frills. We always woke up early, that was normal. And I took this spartan way of life to the life of a reporter.
Were you very poor?
I was. I never went hungry, but everything was accounted for. My father was a tailor and my mother a housewife. She had a mania for organization. We could only have one dress. But it was always neat. I inherited that from her. I’m obsessed with cleanliness. My daughters change clothes four times a day [laughs].
How was your childhood?
I lived in the suburbs of Rio, near Jacarepaguá. My parents divorced and I was raised by my grandmother for a long time, she was a true matriarch. Everything in the family revolved around her. It was a childhood of spending all day in the street, climbing a tree. I think that’s what made me such an active person. I have this problem, doing a million things at once. I need to always be on the move.
But today you’re a celebrity.
How does it feel to be famous?
I don’t see myself in this way. It’s no use. My training is as a journalist. I never had security, a publicist or anything. I walk in the street normally and do my thing. But it’s clear that the journalist has become a celebrity. Even more so since I hosted Fantástico for ten years. Before, I was already known because I did unusual things. I was the first woman to do adventure things on television [she climbed the Himalayas and the highest wall of the Grand Canyon and went down Sugar Loaf Mountain in a trolley], flying in a hang glider, covering the war [like the Falkland Islands in 1982]. But. But I think I became known because I went up all the hills and favelas without any problems. I didn’t think about it, I just went. But it was normal. Today, people look, but there is a respect for me being a journalist. Sure, there’s paparazzi. It’s just that I always lived in Leblon [neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro where the paparazzi are always on duty], I won’t change neighborhoods because of this. The other day I went to the beach with the girls and they photographed me in a bikini. I had given up going to the beach because of this. But with my daughters, I thought: “Oh, what a waste.” But then they photographed me. That wasn’t cool. But it’s also not so much drama.
You were the first black woman to be a reporter on Globo. Then, the first black woman to host Fantástico . Have you faced a lot of prejudice?
My grandmother told me about a great-grandfather who was hung in the mountains of Minas Gerais. My great-grandmother was a beneficiary of the Lei do Ventre Livre (Law of the Free Womb) (1). So, my grandmother taught me this: you have to be free, you don’t have to look for a husband, nothing like that. You have to look for freedom of the soul. So, my concern was to combat racial prejudice. First, inside of me so that it doesn’t leave me sad and bitter and also so that I don’t use this as a defense. Like, if I get a critique and say, “Oh, they’re only saying this because I’m black.” This was always a very big exercise in my life that. I read many books on the subject. And I also did almost 20 years of therapy, clearly.
You once had a problem in a hotel.
I was the first person in Brazil to use the Afonso Arinos Law (2). At the time, racism was not a crime, it was only a misdemeanor. But once a manager of a hotel tried to ban me from entering through the front door, then I called the police. That’s when I realized that everything I had been trying to learn in my life had results. I didn’t make myself a victim, I didn’t torture myself. I just knew how to use the law.
Do you think racism has declined?
I don’t think so. What exists today is law. And the law does not end racism, which is a feeling people have. Today, you have black protagonists of the novelas as Taís Araújo, Lázaro Ramos. But even today there is a huge discussion because Gilberto Braga placed Lázaro Ramos in the role of a heartthrob of the novela without emphasizing that he was black. Then they said: “But how are they not going to discuss the issue of race?”. Now, people, when they put a white guy (in this part) do they debate this issue? It’s the same thing I say, “Today I met a journalist from Tpm (magazine) and she’s white.” That doesn’t happen. But they still say: “Oh, a black.” Racism is there. But there is a desire to minimize it. So, there are the quotas and the willingness to put on black protagonists. But simply because this is news proves that racism exists. I felt this deep down when I hosted Fantástico.
What happened when you were placed in such a prominent role?
For many people, it was an aggression that I was there. “How can a black woman be presenting a program that is a symbol of glamour, of beautiful women?” I was attacked much more (then). Now, on Globo, there was never racism. And when I say this, I speak of the family itself. I’ve received several proposals to leave. I never left because of this. I only came to where I am because they opened up the space. I was the first reporter for Jornal Nacional, I hosted Fantástico when it was at its peak. Today, I am one of the main reporters on Globo Reporter. Dr. Roberto [Marinho, owner of Globo TV, who died in 2003] believed in talent. And only talent. I was never seen as a stranger in the nest. That’s the first step. Now, for the second, sometimes there were those things. “Why her and not me?” To give you an idea, there were people who said I was hosting Fantástico because of the Movimento Negro (black Brazilian civil rights movement). .
You avoid patterns also in personal life. You never got married. And now you’ve adopted daughters alone by yourself …
I never thought of having a family according to molds. I’ve been married once, on paper, but this also was a very different thing. I married at a registry office in Copacabana, nobody knew; only the groomsmen, bridesmaids and the driver. I only told people four years later when I got separated. And the same day I married, I registered in the notary a statement saying that, as long as we’re married, we would never live in the same house. He wasn’t Brazilian. But the man always thinks we’re doing something charming and then he will change his mind. Then he started coming with his little things. After three years, he saw that it wasn’t happening. And it was over.
You never lived together?
I have. I lived together without being married. And I didn’t like it. I’m very free. After that experience I vowed never to live together. But I was never planning things.
You also didn’t plan the time when you decided to adopt your daughters?
I didn’t plan anything. I had requested to leave Fantástico. I worked every weekend for ten years without stopping. I was tired of the segments being done, everything. I talked with my director and in recognition of a lifetime dedicated to the company, they gave me a sabbatical of two years. I wanted to do several things. Living without the camera, traveling. And also doing work with abandoned children. Because I was traveled, I saw children in dire situations and felt like doing something. I spent months in India doing volunteer work in the country’s poorest city. I woke up at three in the morning, serving coffee, caring for abandoned children and beggars. I was amazed. After that, I was alone working with abandoned children in the interior of Nigeria. I went back to Brazil and I thought I needed to do something. I went to the “Festival de Verão” (Summer Musical Festival) in Salvador. When I got there, I met people from an institution and offered to be a volunteer. Then I saw my two daughters. I looked at one of them and the world stopped. I looked at the other one, the world stopped. Soon, I was wanting to know their story and how to adopt them. Laura was 17 days old. And Maria was 9 months old.
You didn’t have any doubts?
No. They are mine. In another life, or now. It’s not that: “Oh, they are daughters in my heart.” They’re mine. Really. I spent one year caring for them in Bahia…. What they teach me every day, you cannot imagine. The other day I was scolding Laura, because I am a pretty tough mother, you know? I’m not soft, no. And she tells me, “Mom, happy, happy. You don’t need to get nervous.” What do I do after hearing such a thing? Stop scolding her, right? And thinking that she’s right, and that I don’t need to be nervous, I can take it lightly.
But have you always liked children.
I’ve always loved them. I have four godchildren. I love all of them absolutely equal. But one has always been very close to me. Since she was 8 months she stayed with me. And I was at an age in which I could travel. We were very close, look here [Glória shows a bracelet that she hasn’t stopped using that has “Julia” written on it]. She is, in a way, my daughter. Today, my daughters are in love with her. And she loves the girls. It’s almost a relationship of real sisters. They are stuck together. It’s the most beautiful thing in the world. Because of this I tell you, I was happy as aunt and godmother, I always had children around me. I didn’t even plan to adopt my daughters. But also I always been a person who never says never. I think anything can happen.
What changed in your life practice with the adoption of the girls?
Everything. My life was perfect, wonderful. I live in a huge apartment, but I broke down all the walls and made a bedroom and living room. All white, imagine that. I had to reform the entire apartment again. I had a maid who took care of all my stuff. Today, I am a mother without a husband. Two girls that are practically twins with less than a year apart. So, a nanny was impracticable. I have to have two. And yet I still do a lot, clearly. Because if I’m at home, they just want to know me. And I have to give attention to both of them. If I give them food, I sit them both down. I give a spoonful to Maria, one for Lalá. If I have two nannies, I have to have one person clean house. I have an obsession for cleanliness, I’m paranoid. I always leave everything neat, which is impossible with two children. With so many people in the house, there has to be a cook, and I practically don’t eat.
What do you mean you don’t eat?
I only eat fish, salad and miso noodles. In terms of restaurants, I only go to Japanese.
Is it because of some question related to health? No, I was adapting myself because of my life as a journalist. From very early on I started to go to distant places, those ends of the Amazon. Then it was restricting. I started to eat fish, carrying a can of sardines. That ended the food problem. Some people try to preserve their life. I didn’t, I was adapting myself to journalism. I don’t eat such as flour, for example. Then, I eat a boiled egg, which is something that you can find anywhere. I prefer to eat an egg with sardine rather than any delicacy. I was getting like this. If you go to the Himalayas, a can of sardines can be guaranteed.
Why do you refuse to reveal your age?
Each person’s time is different. That’s one thing I learned from Buddhism. What is 24 hours for you, is different for me. If your time is not the same as mine, why do we measure the time for people with chronological age? This is nonsense! But I have no complaints. It’s all right. I don’t want to be younger. Neither older. I am the way I wanted to be. In my time. And I don’t hide my age that way either….My friends that started to work in the same era know my age and even joke around. When I was photographed in a bikini, one of them called me and said, “Gee, you in a bikini at this age, I’m going to start blackmailing you.”
I’m proud of never having done plastic (surgery) or padding, or these type of things. I’m terrified of Botox. People say I’m crazy because of my pills, but they take the forehead injection of a toxin that paralyzes.
Are you very vain?
I’m not! This is one of the other myths that people have about me. Look at my face. I’m not wearing makeup! And yes, I have wrinkles. Except that, as I am black, I have a good skin, but also very sensitive. I’d hate to have plastic (surgery), for example, and end up with keloids. I know that blacks are very prone to form keloids, because of this I am careful. I take care of my health.
You are very concerned about health?
I am. I don’t smoke. I stopped drinking about ten years ago and I don’t use drugs. And I do pilates and hike, although I’ve relaxed a bit since I adopted my daughters. My main exercise now is carrying a child.
You said that you are a very free woman. How do men cope (with this)?
Men? Oh, they get scared, right? In the beginning, they think this is beautiful. Within the first month, they run away [laughs]. They are not used to free women. But truly free, from the bottom of the soul. The Brazilian man is very, very macho. I ended up relating better with foreigners. A man thinks that he will be taken care of. And this is not that what I’m going to do. The majority, in essence, still think we will react. But I was always lucky and had wonderful men in my life.
Are you dating?
I have someone. But he’s not for calling my boyfriend. It’s a wonderful relationship. He lives with my daughters. He’s my companion, someone with whom I can count on for everything. But it is a relationship that … It doesn’t have a label that applies. We love deeply and I am very happy. But honestly, it doesn’t have a label that fits.
You are from a poor family and became rich. You’re the breadwinner in the family?
Oh, I am, of course. For a long time, right? I sustain a lot of people. But that to me is a natural thing. My mother lives two blocks from me. If I live in Leblon, where will she live? She will live in the same neighborhood as me, of course. If I have something, she also has it. I help my mother, my sister, my nephews, everybody.
You seem to very happy. Have you ever gone through a moment of depression?
You know, no. I have moments of sadness, of course. But I have never been fully dejected. I learned how to deal with losses. I had the loss of my grandmother, for example, one of the most important people in my life. And my father died when I was 15. I was very sad. But everything that they taught me is inside me in a very strong way. What makes me sad is injustice, the way people judge others. If I don’t even know myself, how can others feel the right to judge me? This happens all the time. And I don’t conform to this.
1. Law from 1871 that ruled every child born of a slave woman was free starting from the date the law took effect on September 28, 1871
2. Approved on July 3, 1951, this law probited racial discrimination in Brazil. It’s officially known as Lei 1390/51.