Note from BW of Brazil: São Paulo Fashion Week is Brazil’s biggest fashion event rivaling top stages in New York, Paris, London, and Milan. But it has been long known that the SPFW is not exactly an event that promotes diversity. In past coverage, this blog has shown that its stages usually feature the whitest of white women modeling the latest trendsetting apparel from top designers. Year after year of the event, black faces are usually a rarity, that is when they appear at all. It is a spectacular in which black Brazilians are deemed “out of place”. An incident at this year’s showcase presents yet another example of this.
The rapper, Fiori, who runs with his brother, rapper Emicida, the Lab Fantasma clothing line, reported: “To be black is to be barred by the security of the event even when it is your brand and wearing a bracelet” (of the event); the rapper was barred by one of the São Paulo Fashion Week security guards on Tuesday night (29). The rapper/designer and his clothing line were a memorable part of last year’s SPFW precisely because of Eastern, African and street influences in the designs, but also due to the diversity of faces presented on the runway. A complete turnaround from what is normally seen in a lily white SPFW, 90% of Lab Fantasma’s models were black. But even so, it didn’t guarantee its creator’s immediate acceptance at the show. This is how the incident was reported:
“To be black is to be barred by the security of the event even when it is your brand and with a bracelet (of the event),” he wrote, a few hours after the parade of his brand, which was one of the main and most anticipated of the week.
The case draws attention mainly because the Lab Fantasma is one of the most inclusive brands of the event and the one that most maintains and practices the issue of diversity and against prejudice. On their fashion runway, a handful of black models considered “fora dos padrões” (outside of the standards) of fashion, such as singer MC Carol and rapper Drik Barbosa, opened the parade. Historically the brand is still based mainly on African culture.
Shortly before the Lab Fantasma Lab parade, another episode embarrassed those present. Caito Maia, the owner of Chilli Beans and sponsor of the event, made a speech about his career and used the following phrase: “Eu tenho um passado negro” (I have a black past). He referred to the period in which he was part of the band Las Ticas Tienen Fuego.
Note from BW of Brazil: But even with the typical shenanigans that one would expect from SPFW, we also witnessed a shining glimmer of hope on the runway of last week’s SPFW. It’s pretty standard to see maybe a handful of Afro-Brazilian models among the literally hundreds of white faces who receive major exposure at such a high profile event as SPFW, as such, we proudly present women such as Maria Aparecida de Oliveira here at Black Women of Brazil.
Ex-maid from the state of Minas Gerais shines as model at SPFW: “A dream”
By Daniela Carasco and Amauri Terto
São Paulo Fashion Week is an event of international weight that points to trends in fashion and behavior, but not just that. The fashion week is also an amazing stage of life stories.
Maria Aparecida de Oliveira is the protagonist of one of them.
Maria Aparecida took 19 years to discover her beauty and talent as a model. The humble life in the interior of Minas Gerais state prevented her from shining.
Born in the small town of Santana da Vargem, the daughter of a maid and a rural worker and oldest of a family of six siblings, she began to work early. “At the age of 16, I became a maid to help my parents with household bills,” she says. “We were never hungry, but I did two cleanings a week to supplement the income.” Maria earned 80 reais a day from work.
The initiative, she says, came from it. “It was horrible, I felt terrible, but money was important to us,” she says. Despite her young age, she says work has never disrupted her studies. “I was able to finish high school.”
“I thought I was strange, horrible”
Her story began to change with the arrival of a selection team of new faces – novice models – in the city. “Even disbelieving, I decided to go. I confess I didn’t believe in my modeling potential. I thought I was ugly.”
The low self-esteem of the time had an explanation. As a child, Maria faced a lot of bullying due to her thinness and height – she is 1.80 m -, this addition to racism. “I don’t remember specific episodes, but it was still marking to me. That naturally impacted the way I looked at myself.”
The turnaround came with her approval in the selective process. Suspicious, Maria heard the “yes” from the agency a month later and, in three days, was already in São Paulo, living in an apartment filled with other “new faces”, who became her new co-workers. The cleaning lady was left behind. Since then, Maria has done editorials and countless works in the fashion world.
“I’ve been in the capital since January and, despite being a foot behind from the start, I feel fulfilled. It was a thud, that became a dream.”
And whoever walks down the aisles or watches the fashion parades of brands like Laboratório Fantasma, Tig, Karina Fouvry or Ratier can already see that Maria was born to shine in fashion. Among her greatest professional prides are editorials. “I was thrilled when I flipped through a magazine for the first time and saw myself in it. I could never imagine such a thing.”
The paychecks are still not high, but she thinks big and dreams of the day she will buy a huge house for the family to live in the capital of São Paulo.
“I want to live in Paris”
Among her wishes are still the desire to build an international career, to cross the catwalk of Victoria’s Secret as an Angel – a place so coveted by models from around the world – and to 27 to devote herself to a bigger project. “I don’t want to be a model forever, I want to go to medical school.”
Today, she looks in the mirror and sees the reflection of a beautiful and accomplished girl. “I’ve just woken up to life, the amount of work I’ve done connected to beauty has made me believe in my potential. Now I’ve become the mirror for my siblings.”
And when it comes to her reference for moving forward, she doesn’t hesitate to choose Naomi Campbell as her favorite model and inspiration.
“I would not change anything about my story, it was very hard to start working early on, but even though I had suffering years, I was very happy.”