Note from BW of Brazil: The origins of today’s piece actually started in a similar manner to other subjects I approach here. I saw a meme floating around in one of my social networks. In the illustration, there was a portrait of the recently crowned Miss Universe, South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi, with her foot on the face of popular TV host Silvio Santos and placing her crown on the head of another black woman. Not knowing the story, I wondered what this image was all about. I soon found out.
There’s a couple of categories that I could file today’s story under. It could go under television hosts behaving badly, it could fit under “the dictatorship of whiteness”, suspected racism and on and on. As most of my readers don’t have access to most Brazilian TV networks, they have probably never heard the name Silvio Santos before, well, besides the times this name has appeared on this blog. Santos (Senor Abravanel) is a billionaire entrepreneur, TV host/personality and owner of one of Brazil’s top three TV networks, SBT.
As I’ve said numerous times in past posts, I’m generally not a fan of Brazilian television, but even so, it’s probably impossible to not have seen at least a few minutes of the television programs hosted by Santos. The two I’m familiar with are Roda a Roda, which is straight up imitation of the American program Wheel of Fortune, and then there’s the Programa Silvio Santos, a variety show which is the topic of this post.
Now before I get into the topic, to give people unfamiliar with Santos a little context, let me tell you that Santos is known for his questionable sense of “humor” and gaffs that he regularly makes on live television. To tell you truth, as I don’t watch his programs, I can’t even begin to list all of the controversies Santos has provoked due to something he said on one of this shows.
Just to get an idea, in 2014, on the Teleton program, he asked an 11-year black child actress what she wanted to be when she grew up. When the young Julia Olliver responded that she wanted to a be a singer or actress, Santos asked, “But with this hair?” In 2016, on his Programa Silvio Santos, he asked another black child if she felt good about her natural hair. When the child responded that she did, Santos replied that it “attracts a lot of attention”. Some could look at the comment and ask, “what’s the big deal?”, but in a Brazil where black people have long been criticized for their hair texture, we can understand why many viewers saw the comment as pejorative.
Also, in 2016, again on the Teleton program, Santos interviewed a black, plus size dancer. Santos said: “You’re very graceful. Although you’re the only black woman among the white women, you’re beautiful. You’re really beautiful.” The host then proceeded to ask the woman how much she weighed. When she replied 120 kg (264 lbs.), Santos replied: “Whoever marries you will have two pleasures. One at the time of sex and the other at the time when you get off of him”. The statements had a negative impact on social networks.
In 2018, singer Preta Gil went to compete on the “Jogo das 3 Pistas” segment of Programa de Silvio Santos. Announcing her to the audience, the host said: “You’re fatter than the last time you were here, but your face is still beautiful. This year, Santos was again criticized when he asked an 8-year-old child if she preferred “sex, power or money”. This was in the same week in which the host was criticized for promoting a parade with children in swimsuits in which one of the evaluation criteria was having “the most beautiful legs”. Troubling to say the least consider SBT’s annual Teleton (telethon) program has a goal of raising funds on behalf of the Association for the Assistance of Disabled Children (AACD).
Mind you, these are just a few of the absurdities involving Santos over the years. But Santos isn’t alone in his televised outrageous comments. We also have Globo TV’s Faustão(host of Domingão do Faustão, another TV program of which I wonder how it’s been on the air for so long) who has also appeared in previous posts for his comments and/or behavior. Back in October, when greeting actress Dandara Mariana, who is black, during the “Dança dos Famosos” (a rip of Dancing With the Stars) segment of his show, Faustão said, “This race, I’ll tell you, ok…They do well in dance, in sports…”
As you might guess, the idea that blacks do well in entertainment and sports is a well-known stereotype in Brazil.
Then, this past Sunday, actress Sheron Menezes went the Domingão program with actors that make up the cast of the novela Bom Sucesso, another in a long line of Globo novelas (soap operas). She and her colleagues were there to participate in the “Ding Dong” segment of the show in which a brief melody of a song is played and contestants try to guess the name of the song. Discussing her role on the novela, Menezes explains that her character is a villain involved in a toxic relationship. After explaining a little of the difficulty of leaving such relationships, Faustão abruptly cut her off.
“I think that sometimes the signs are there and we have to be open to see them. And have someone at your side to show you”, said the actress, before being interrupted. “Another thing: is this the Fátima Bernardes program?”, blurted out Faustão, referring to daytime talk show Encontro com Fátima Bernardes, also on Globo TV. “What are we going to discuss here? Damn. This is the campaign of success,” said Faustão, shutting down the conversation. This show has been on the air for 30 years. How is that?
Anyway, with all of this history, check out this latest controversy involving Silvio Santos…
Silvio Santos doesn’t accept victory of black woman in competition and internet accuses him of racism
Even with the score pointing to the victory of Jennyfer Oliver, Silvio didn’t like the result and opted
On Sunday night (8), Silvio Santos got into yet another controversy by changing the result of a musical competition on his program, preventing a black woman from winning. Even with the score pointing to Jennyfer Oliver’s victory, Silvio, however didn’t like the result and opted for another (white) competitor.
During the set, several candidates performed and, after others had their chance, but when it came to Jennyfer, Silvio interrupted it and said that the song was very irritating. Then, the host called for the audience to choose who would be the winner.
After announcing the auditorium choice for Jennyfer, Silvio decided to give R$ 500 to all the competitors and said it would be up to him to decide the best singer. “If I were in my house, in my opinion, the best singer would be you, Juliana! You are very beautiful and sing very well, plus R$ 500 for Juliana!”, he said, ignoring that the score announced victory for Jennyfer.
The kicker in this ordeal is the fact that Jennyfer didn’t just barely win. She completely shut down the competition! While the other three contestants received 3, 5 and 8 votes apiece, Jennyfer earned a whopping 84 votes!
As soon as the case was aired on the SBT program, social networks began to reflect on the situation and Silvio Santos became one of the most talked about subjects on Twitter. Many internet users accused the host of racism. “It’s past time for Silvio Santos to go off the air. This man is dated, extremely problematic, sexist and racist… This is absurd!”, wrote one profile.
“Guys, I was watching at the time… I was super happy that she won, BUT OUT OF NOWHERE Silvio Santos gave the prize to the white woman and that in his view, she was the ‘most beautiful’ of them. I sincerely… I have nothing to say,” commented another.
It’s past time for Silvio Santos to get off the air. This man is dated, extremely problematic, sexist and racist… This here is absurd! pic.twitter.com/pcCdlbbO7B – Alexandre (@Iexandre) December 9, 2019
But just who is Jennyfer Oliver?
Like the other participants, Jennyfer is a singer from São Paulo in the early stages of her career. Her musical style is the sertaneja and, with it, the artist has performed in different concert halls, bars, restaurants and parties. On YouTube, Jennyfer collects videos of her playing songs by other artists, such as MPB artists Marília Mendonça, Alcione and Caetano Veloso.
On Instagram, the singer has 16,000 followers and uses the space to divulge excerpts of her performances, concert schedule and also to address other issues of interest, such as her transition to natural hair.
Given the repercussion of what happened on SBT, Jennyfer went to the networks to comment on the case. In a video, the singer confirmed that she felt embarrassed and that she thought that the producers of the program would edit the moment in which Silvio Santos prevents her from performing, stating that her song was “very irritating”.
“At no point did I become a victim, but I felt super embarrassed by the situation. When it came to my turn, he barred it, said that the music was very irritating. It was the production itself that chose it, none of the four of us. I felt hurt,” she said.
“It was supposed to be a singer’s program, to be judged by vocal quality. But, unfortunately, in Brazil there are few programs that take quality into consideration”, she continued. “The segment was for singers, not for beauty.
Despite the embarrassment, Jennyfer excludes the possibility of suing Silvio Santos. “Silvio will continue to be rich, rotten rich, it won’t do any good to fight for what we think is right,” said Jennyfer, afraid of losing future work if he goes to court against the host.
Note from BW of Brazil: As we can see, this story is jacked up all the way around. Not only was Jennyfer unfairly disqualified from a victory she clearly secured, but being black, probably of humble origins and woman, she doesn’t even feel it’s worth going to court over as Santos is a powerful, billionaire with a lot of support and influence. And in a market that already discriminates against black women, as regular workers, but also, as I pointed out, in the music industry (see here, here and here).
Translation of comment above
”IT WASN’T RACISM. Silvio Santos did nothing wrong in giving the prize to the other girl. THE MONEY IS HIS, PEOPLE. I would do the same thinng also, you all see racism in everything. We are all equal, I treat blacks as if they were humans like I am.”
Note from BW of Brazil: I was just thinking that all that was missing from this situation was somebody coming along talking about it wasn’t racism because ”we are all equal”. Then I came across a shot of the woman above’s comment. It speaks volumes for the contradictory manner in which white Brazilians see race and black people. On the one hand, they scream ”we are all equal” to they’re blue in the face, even in the face of explicitly racist incidents, but in the same breath admit that they don’t see black people as humans. Have to wonder if people are all there when they make such statements.
Black people often say and are told that to win under a system of white supremacy, they must be twice as good as whites just to have a chance at being considered equal. If we consider the vote in this particular situation involving Silvio Santos, Jennyfer was actually more than 5 times better than her (white) competitors combined but a white man still chose not to declare her the winner.
Just to conclude this, I cannot say with certaintly that Santos did what he did because Jennyfer was black. But with her being the only black contestant, having garnerned far more support than her competitors, showing that the audience was with her, what other conclusion should I draw from this? Better yet, when I think of a reverse scenario, in which there were four contestants, three black and one white, and the total points of all three black women was 16 while that of a white woman was 84, I simply can’t imagine Santos overuling and choosing one of the black girls as the winner. But that’s just me…
With information from Revista Fórum