Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

Prejudice in Brazil: Three black women, a bisexual and a transsexual, all well-known, discuss experiences with bias

black Brazilian women

Fashion entrepreneur, Gabriele Benedetti brought the women together to discussion prejudice and the fight against racism and homophobia

by Peter Willmersdorf
Before following the action on Ipanema Beach, yesterday afternoon, which put fashion in the war against racism, homophobia and prejudice, promoted by the owner of the designer brandBrasaimara, the Italian Gabriele Benedetti, I was doing coverage, on Farme de Amoedo street where the entrepreneur and models got together. Between the arrangement of makeup and clothes, I talked with Ariadna Arantes, the transsexual who participated in the Globo TV reality show BBB (Big Brother Brasil), dancer/TV host Adriana Bombom, who currently hosts a segment on Rede TV’s TV Fama called “Bombando com Bombom”, another ex-BBB participant, Diana Balsini, and models Hanna Ribeiro and Isabella Correa, who came in second in two contests of Miss Rio de Janeiro (2008 and 2012 respectively). All were engaged in the cause and shared stories of prejudice and racism that were hard to believe in a country that is among the 10 largest economic powers in the world, and in such a plural city like Rio that dictates fashion dictates from northern to southern Brazil. Prejudice is still ingrained in Brazilians whether people like it or not. How do you stop this? The current generation has the weapon and the power of educating children.

Ariadna Arantes; bottom right before surgery as Thiago

Ariadna plunged body and soul into the campaign against racism and prejudice against the idealized by her fiancée, Gabriele Benedetti. She said she knows full well what it is to be judged by people. “Society is still cruel with whoever has a sexual orientation that doesn’t follow common sense. And everybody starts talking about it. Since I was very young, I felt that I was a woman and ran after my dream of having surgery in Thailand to change my sex. I never regretted it. And it’s definitely time to stop people from judging others by color, social class or gender.”

Adriana (Soares) BomBom

“During a period of my life, I had to enter through the back door of the buildings when I went to visit a friend,” reveals Adriana Bombom. At school, she was a victim of bullying: “They sang the song of Sandra de Sá that says ‘Sarará, crioulo’ (1). I went home and asked, ‘My God, what is the reason that my black skin is so criticized,’” she recalled. And Adriana, which was the episode that hurt the most? “I looked for a job. I went into a store that had a sign in the window that read ‘Wanted: vender.’ When I asked about the requirements, a woman said, ‘For you, only if it was a job for a cleaning woman or carpet cleaner.’ Do you know what it’s like to hear that?”

After achieving such fame, Adriana Bombom said that much has changed. “Now, they treat me like a celebrity. But I know very well how far the falsity of the human being goes. I’ve been through various experiences like this, my friend.”

Diana Balsini, executive producer, advertiser and model and participant on the reality show Big Brother Brother 11, was strong enough to assume her sexuality in front of the camera for all Brazil. “I never owed anyone anything in terms of my character, but I was shocked by the hypocrisy of these people after 84 days of confinement in the house,” speaking of the scenario on the show. Diana says that social networks have allowed “unscrupulous” people to insult her and always comment on the question of her feeling attracted to other women. “Look, the internet is essential these days, but it’s a free territory for prejudice, arrogance (and) racism of people who hide behind a computer. Even (legendary singer) Chico Buarque said he was shocked by the many negative comments that he received on Twitter (2). I confess that it made me very sad,” she complained. Diana says that she is currently working on a project of a TV program focused on topics such as sex, behavior and games. “It’s very light and would be perfect for mothers and children to watch together. Let’s break taboos and hypocrisies.”

Diana Balsini

Coming in second place twice in the Miss Rio de Janeiro in 2008 and 2012, Isabel Correa said he suffered a lot due to these contests. “I think there is a lot of bias in relation to black women. The Rio Grande do Sul native Deise Nunes, the first and only black Miss Brazil in the 80’s, suffered a lot to get the title; and after her?” A little background: at the time of the pageant in 1986, the vote had to be repeated three times to confirm Nunes’ victory due to so many complaints from families of other candidates. Isabel also commented on the election of the Angolan Leila Lopes, last year at the Miss Universe competition, the first time the competition was held in Brazil. “All the Brazilians knew how to applaud the Angolan woman, but why don’t they know how to elect a black Miss Brazil?”

Speaking of a few days prior to the photo session, Isabel had left her Belford Roxo home, in the Baixada Fluminense area of Rio state where she lives with her parents, heading towards Ipanema, South Zone, to meet with Gabriele. On the way, she heard jokes on the bus and in the streets where she was walking. “Sometimes I hate the things men say so much. They always talk about my color. Nowadays it’s not as bad. They called me Naomi Campbell. But it bothered me all day.” Isabel adds that in Belford Roxo, she suffers less prejudice than in the South Zone of Rio, a sad reality in one of the places where access to education is much greater than in the Baixada Fluminense area. “The other day I went to a restaurant in the south with my boyfriend. Everyone looked at me weird. (It was) like I could read people’s thoughts: ‘Look at the prostitute with the gringo (foreigner)’” she recalls (3).

Isabel Correa
Hanna Ribeiro

And, how would you react if you had a grandmother who didn’t speak to you because your skin is not white like hers? Because you’re the daughter of a “mulata of Sargentelli”? (4) This is the case of Hanna Ribeiro, 19, who has been featured as a model for Dolce & Gabbana. Hanna is back in Rio, but her comings and goings are constant to Milan, Italy, where her mother, Marta Ribeiro has lived for years since she married an Italian. “My grandmother does not like me and my sister, because we are morenas,” (5) she says. And how does she deal with this sad reality? “I love my color. It’s my mother’s color,” she says proudly.

1. ‘Sarará, crioulo’ are both common terms in the Brazilian lexicon of color-coded descriptions, terms or even insults. Sarará refers to a light-skinned person of African descent, often with sandy-colored or even light red, frizzy hair and freckles. For some people, the term crioulo can be interpreted as pejorative in the manner that the term nigger/nigga is used in the US. Crioulo is similar to nigger/nigga in the sense that it can be used as a term of endearment or an insult depending on who uses the word and the context. Brazilian Soul singer used the words ‘Sarará, crioulo’ as a refrain in her popular early 80’s hit song “Olhos Coloridos”.

2. Chico Buarque is one of the most popular singer/songwriter/musicians of Brazilian Popular Music (MPB). In 2011, the singer posted a video on the internet discussing his reactions to the negative comments people make on the internet and how he dealt with it.

3. In Brazil, it is a popular stereotype that when one sees a black woman with a white man who appears to be a foreigner, the situation is one of prostitution, sexual tourism, a woman trading sexual favors for financial support or a method of leaving Brazil to live in another country.

4, It’s not clear here if the author is saying that Ribeiro is literally the daughter of a woman who was formerly a dancer in the famous “Mulata de Sargentelli” show or it is only a reference to her mother’s appearance. In a previous post about “mulatas”, we wrote this about Sargentelli:

In the 1970s and 1980s, promoter Oswaldo Sargentelli (1924-2002), the self-proclaimed mulatólogo (mulatalogist) gained fame with his world tours of up to 40 “mulatas” under his wing with his show “Sargentelli e as Mulatas Que Não Estão no Mapa (Sargentelli and the Out-of-this-world Mulatas).” In 1985, Sargentelli was accused of racism by the Commission of the Valorization and Political Integration of the Negro of (the southern state of) Rio Grande do Sul. He was accused of exploiting black women. The charges were later archived in court.

5. In Ribeiro’s case, she is most likely referring to the fact that she has light-brown skin although the term morena/o can be used by many different phenotypes. For a discussion on the term morena and other color-coded/racial terms, please see our post on racial classification.

Source: Jornal do Brasil

One comment on “Prejudice in Brazil: Three black women, a bisexual and a transsexual, all well-known, discuss experiences with bias

  1. Anonymous
    November 5, 2012

    love Adriana Bombom's answers, pure class.ISabel Correa showed a good point about Black folks in the Americas in comparison to Black folk outside of it.the author should have stated if Hanna Ribeiro said her grandmother called her a woman of Sargentelli

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This entry was posted on November 2, 2012 by in Big Brother Brasil, black models, Deise Nunes, Globo, Miss Brasil, mulata, Prejudice, racism, Rede TV and tagged .
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