Aline, only black woman of top-rated reality show, speaks on racism and identity: "I’m black; I don’t have any problem with people calling me this" – Family on her dedication and struggle to succeed

Cast member Aline on Big Brother Brasil 13

Reality shows are often programs that go way overboard in taking advantage of shock value in order to bring in better TV ratings. Brazilian reality shows are no different. In fact, judging from what some segments of the population write in social networks and comment boards, there are plenty people who could care less if the successful Big Brother Brasil series’ 13th and latest installment was cancelled and never came back! But every now and then a reality show and/or its cast will offer something noteworthy beyond the over-the-top antics of the show. Often times, behind the scenes, these personalities may come across as being more normal or human than they appear on TV. 

Black Brazilians often point out that in reality shows like Big Brother, Afro-Brazilian cast members are usually the extreme minority on reality shows, often having only a few brown faces on a set full of persons who, for the most part, represent Brazil’s more European phenotypes. And speaking of race, the topic made for an interesting discussion on classification, identity and discrimination concerning Aline, the program’s lone black woman. Check the story as well as a quick peak into Aline’s life and aspirations below. 


 

After Dhomini, one of the men on the reality show Big Brother Brasil 13 said that he calls his black friend pretinho (little black guy) and that his friend called him gordinho (little, fat guy or chubby), the topic of racism went even further. Aline, the lone black woman on the show, said that she had had a problem when she worked for Cirque du Soleil circus, in Rio de Janeiro, a few years ago. The conflict occurred when a member called her “macaca (monkey)”, because she hadn’t given up a chair for him to sit down for lunch.

Aline in scene with other cast members

“I felt like hitting him,” she angrily remembered. Aline said that she was calmed down by a friend and that she thought it would be best to go to the police station and make a criminal complaint. “I’m not well-studied, but I’m not stupid,” she fumed, saying that racism is a crime that’s non-bailable. 

 
black Brazilian women

She went to a police precinct and returned with the police to discuss what had happened with the organizers of the event. Aline said that she couldn’t take the process forward because she had to work. With no time and no money to pay the court costs, she didn’t have another option and the case ended up being archived.

The discussion began when Dhomini said to Aline that only she, being black, could refer to people as preta or negra (both meaning black) but if he or any other white person said this, it would be seen as racist.

Aline said that prejudice was “an absurdity”. She continued, weighing in on a debate concerning racial or skin color terms that Brazilians of African ancestry prefer to use: “I don’t like that they say I’m negra, I’m preta…I don’t  have any problem (with people) calling me this. It’s my color.” Aline, who proudly refers to herself as preta, also doesn’t accept being called mulata, which historically carries certain other sexually-charged connotations for black Brazilian women. She also said that she liked quotas (referring to system of affirmative action for blacks to enter in public universities), although she also believes it’s a form of prejudice.


BW of Brazil note: In the previous paragraphs there were several issues raised that we frequently discuss on the BW of Brazil blog. First, again, we have another Afro-Brazilian sharing her experience with a common racial insult (“macaca”) that is used in Brazil. Then a white cast member mentioning how it is increasingly common for white Brazilians to be accused of being racist if they use terms like “pretinho”, “neguinho” (1) or mention one’s race. Third, we have Aline chiming in on what racial term she prefers to use in describing herself (2) and fourth, her opinion of the system of affirmative action policies in Brazilian universities

Interrupting her studies at 14 to work: “She was never a party girl”, says mother
 

Aline Mattos, from Rio de Janeiro, is 31 years old, and 5’10” tall and is known for being a very sincere person by her friends. Mattos lives in the Paciência neighborhood in the west zone of Rio with her mother, sister, nieces and nephews. She is also a receptionist, dancer and aspiring actress that has already participated on other Globo TV shows such as the comedy skit programs, Zorra Total and Casseta & Planeta and the Sunday variety show Domingão do Faustão.

Whoever has seen Aline’s explosive personality on the 13thinstallment of Big Brother Brasil  might turn up their noses, but her life story would make anyone proud. The head of a household, she started working early, at the age of 14, to help support the household, interrupting her first year of high school to work. At 31, the Nova Jérsei (of Rio) community resident planned on graduating from high school in 2013, but this desire was postponed to fight for the R$1.5 million (about US$750,000) award destined to the winner of the reality show.

“She wants to finish straightening out our house and pay for a health plan for our mother,” says her sister Tatiane Mattos, 26. With teary eyes, remembering her daughter’s promises, the cook Helena Corrêa, 49, says that her daughter has always been responsible, since she was little:

“Aline never was a party girl. Her thing has always been going to sleep early and waking up early to work,” says Helena, who had to quit her job in July of last year because of a problem in her arm: “(I spent) 15 years working in the restaurant, I ended up losing strength. I’ll be back as soon as I get well.”

 
Helena (glasses), Tatiane, Lucas (back), Lauane (front), Luis and Luna

An aunt almost mother

The family cheers Aline on from home

While her mother is not well, it’s Aline who bears everything at home, especially the care of her nephews and nieces Lucas Gabriel, age 9; Lunan Lohane, 5; Lauane Rachel, 4, and Luis Felipe, 1 and a half.

“My aunt is really cool! When she comes home, she gives us a lot of hugs, play biting, giving little slaps …She’s really cool”, Lucas says, full of fond thoughts of his aunt.

And speaking on the youngest one, Tatiane says:

“The doll is hers! The darling! She sleeps and wakes up every day with Aline.”

Helen adds: “She is the mother of my grandchildren more than Tatiane in the sense of taking care of them, bearing the costs.”

“She did a lot of work as an extra on TV, and her life improved more when Aline began working as a receptionist at events”, says her mother.

Her first modeling experience was in a course prep school in Marechal, where she learned to walk the runway. Soon after, he had an opportunity to take some pictures, but was hindered due to a lack of money.

“The audition was on Avenida Rio Branco, downtown, but only when we got there did she see that he had to pay. We talked to the guy and he agreed to do four photos for R$25 (about US$12.50). It was with them that Aline managed her first works,” remembers her mother.

“When she could, she did some modeling work”, says Helen.

It was only when she came of age that she decided to focus on her dream of being a model.

“She did a lot of work as an extra on TV, and her life improved more when Aline began working as a receptionist at events”, says her mother.

Her first modeling experience was in a course prep school in Marechal, where she learned to walk the runway. Soon after, he had an opportunity to take some pictures, but was hindered due to a lack of money.

“The audition was on Avenida Rio Branco, downtown, but only when we got there did she see that he had to pay. We talked to the guy and he agreed to do four photos for R$25 (about US$12.50). It was with them that Aline managed her first works,” remembers her mother.

“When she could, she did some modeling work”, says Helen.

It was only when she came of age that she decided to focus on her dream of being a model.

And dad, where does he come in in this whole story? He doesn’t.

“The last contact Aline had with him was when she was 18. She cut off their relationship because she was angry,” remembers Helena, adding that her ex never helped the family: “If you ask, she says her father died, but I sometimes feel that Aline wanted for this situation to be different.”

Notes

1. For more on Brazilian usage of diminutive or augmentative nicknames in Portuguese and a discussion of racial terms of affection vs. racial insults, see  here. Journalist Glória Maria, for example, accepts the term neguinha as a term of affection.
2. For a discussion on the usage of racial/skin color terminology, see our discussion on racial classification and the increase of the usage of the term preta or preto versus other terms in the Brazilian census.

Source: Yahoo BrasilO FuxicoExtra

About Marques Travae 2897 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

2 Comments

  1. Yes it is racist when white people call black people names like pretinho, neguinho or mention one’s race because of their brutal history of how they treated black people. White people have to understand that and start being kind to pay for all wrongs they did against black people in the past about 5 hundred years. Nobody trusts them.I don't know about Brazil, but in the US black people sometimes call each other nigga. However I have heard Asian people and white people call themselves that too. Which is crazy. Black people don't call each other bimbo, cracker or chink.

  2. The whole thing with the use of nigga has kind of turned into a hip-hop urban culture thing so you will even hear non-black in inner cities in the U.S. use the word But highly depends on the context.

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