Note from BW of Brazil: Back in January of 2012, not quite even two months after the debut of this blog, I presented my readers to the model Luana Génot. Her experience as a black model escalated talk of the necessity for racial quotas in the modeling industry. She explained how features associated with persons of African descent were seen in the industry and also that black models were only being called for events if there was a theme linked to black culture. Funny thing is, we’ve seen model-oriented shows in Brazil in which there was a black/African theme and there were hardly any black people present (see here and here). Such is the way that Brazil deals with its debt to Africa and its people. Today, five years later, little has changed in Brazil’s fashion industry in which ‘blackouts’ on modeling runways are pretty much the norm, save the occasional exception. Well, Luana didn’t disappear. In the years since that article, she decided to fight racial inequality in her way by developing an institute that addresses the issue. Her story below…
Former Rio model creates entity to promote racial equality
Tired of being suffering from prejudice because of her skin color, she fights against inequality and promotes the mobilization of society in favor of the racial cause.
By Priscila Doneda
At the age of 27, Luana Génot dedicates her time to combating racial prejudice and is the founder and director of the Instituto Identidades do Brasil (ID_BR) (Identities Institute of Brazil) and the “Sim à Igualdade Racial” (Yes to Racial Equality) campaign. However, her battle is not recent and her story needs to be told.
Luana was a model and was in Europe when she sought an agency to represent her in Paris. One of the agents praised her, but stressed that the color of her skin would be a problem for her career. And this was the trigger for the beauty to recognize herself as the victim of this kind of prejudice. “It was there that I realized that I was part of a group that suffered racism and the fact that not being able to be in the magazines was part of a racial regime that excluded black people,” she says. “It also awakened me to some cases from my childhood, like when I was nine years old, and I drew myself as a blue-eyed blonde (see note one). The reality really set in at 18, but throughout my life, I suffered racism and didn’t realize the severity of it all,” she points out.
But the urge to get around it was always stronger than giving up. “Especially since I received from this booking agent a message saying, ‘você é bonita, mas você tem um problema, porque você é negra’ (you’re beautiful, but you have a problem because you’re black). I kept thinking this couldn’t be a problem, I couldn’t allow this to be a problem. So from that moment on, I think I started to dedicate my life to changing that perspective, trying to find a solution so that being black is not a problem anymore,” she explains.
When she realized that she earned less and worked harder than her white colleagues, after two and a half years in the fashion industry, Luana decided to quit her career and joined the studied Advertising at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio). In 2012, she won a scholarship to study marketing, and topics related to race, ethnicity, and media at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, in the United States. There, she volunteered for President Obama’s campaign and worked for an African-American-specific ad agency, which was part of a large international agency, where they did many programs to empower blacks and talk about the racial theme of the country.
In love with this new world, the following year, Luana created the NGO Identidades do Brasil. “When I came back, I was eager to start such an initiative. I began to research, and since I live in Rio de Janeiro, I didn’t find anything exactly with this slant, that would speak with attractive advertising content about the issue of racial equality and to make the people of civil society as a whole mobilize around this cause,” she recalls.
For this, it is clear that the young woman had incredible women who inspired her to enter, more and more, in this fight. “The first one was my mother. I remember that, because of the cases of racism that I suffered in the classroom, I even changed schools. My mother went to talk to the director about this problem and he said it was child’s play. She knew it was not just that, that he should have been more incisive and that his reaction had been inadmissible,” she says. “Today, I find some inspirations through authors like Stuart Hall, Lélia Gonzalez, Kabengele Munanga and Dilma de Melo Silva. These people provide me with strong learning and also an academic background, so that I can have the background to produce the contents of the campaign and my lectures,” she celebrates.
The mission of Instituto Identidades do Brasil (ID_BR) is to mobilize civil society in favor of racial equality. “Through the ‘Yes to Racial Equality’ campaign, we want to show that the struggle for affirmative action and against racism is not only a cause of blacks, but of the whole society in general,” she says. Thus, the entity does this with content produced for the purpose of explaining to people what racism is, how it spreads and what it causes, for example. For this, Luana, who is now a master student in ethnic-racial relations, counts on the collaboration of a body of professors and academics. In addition, the Institute also produces events, promotes races, organizes lectures and aims at the licensing of companies for fundraising – these, in turn, are distributed to other NGOs that also work with social empowerment.
The idea is that the symbol of the Institute, a stylized heart, formed from four skin tones, unifies affirmative actions. “We know there are a lot of movements and entities struggling for that. So we have created a symbol that can rightfully empower fundraising and empower these other entities that are struggling, as well as building empathy with society in general.” According to Luana, ID_BR is in negotiation with 20 companies that have shown interest in brand licensing. In addition, the Institute is in contact with 15 NGOs spread throughout Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Recife and Salvador, in order to set up its network of activities.
Source: M de Mulher
- A rather common occurrence in a Brazil that regularly indoctrinates its black population with the adoration of whiteness. For more on this, see a number of articles on racial identity. Also see the articles “In study, 10-year old black girls reject their features and imagine the fairy tale “charming prince” to have blond hair and blue eyes”, “‘I loved the black doll, auntie’: The best Christmas message that I received – The difficulty of embracing blackness in a country that wants to be white” and “Short film explores race, exclusion and the deferred dreams of black children living under Brazil’s ‘dominance of whiteness'”.