Karen and Karina Ferreira: Representing black Brazilian beauty in the world of modeling, Part 2

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The identical twins Karen and Karina Ferreira Flores, black girls, have the prospect of starting a career “in the commercial markets of Germany and Greece,” says Juliana Rife, International Mega Model booking agent and a modeling agency in Brasilia. That means being able to work in photos, catalogs and showrooms. Despite their beauty, height (5’10”), weight (110 lbs.) generous breasts, fleshy mouth, slanted eyes and being very young, maybe they won’t manage to get to the catwalks easily. The one explaining the reason is the owner of HDA Models in São Paulo, the largest agency specializing in black models in Brazil. “Whoever promotes the fashion show catwalk thinks black people don’t wear clothes”, says Helder Dias, speaking of the prejudice that still persists in the fashion universe.
Last year, the Public Ministry of São Paulo forced the organizers of the São Paulo Fashion Week to include in shows at least 10% of black models, people of African descent or indigenous or, but it was left alone. “The fashion events in Brazil are not for my black models. They do not hire blacks and, when hired, is no cache. Or not to participate does not change much, “says Helder Dias. It is in the advertising campaigns that skin color is changing the Brazilians. “The black started to have purchasing power, then the market has woken up to the inclusion of dark skin,” said Helder, who directs 250 black male and female models. “Prejudice is not just racial, it is economical too,” says the businessman.
There is one more complication for Brazilians of African descent who wish to embark upon a career as a runway-model, be it on the runway, in advertising or marketing. If the skin of the candidate falls toward the black side, the funnel (of opportunity) is narrower.
“The demands are much greater. They have to be beautiful, stylish, have a good body, and an impeccable catwalk. White women also need it all, but the rigidity is not so great”, says Juliana Rife. Still, the market has grown for models of African descent in Brasilia. For every ten white models, there are three black models in the agency of Juliana. Until recently, the proportion was much lower: nine to one. As the requirements are so great, is not easy to overcome them.
The twins have been able to overcome the rigidity of the market for black models, but they remain the exception of the exception. “Even with all the advances of recent years, it is rare to see black people working in the shopping malls, appearing on TV. They appear in numbers that are much lower than that of the Brazilian racial reality”, says the businesswoman Maria das Graças Santos, owner of the first salon specializing in ethnic hair in the Federal District, Afro N’Zinga, who worked for many years in Conic* and is now in Venâncio 2000*. “In late 1970s, and early 1980s, it was hard to find someone who knew how to cut black hair. We found in a UnB (University of Brasília) a student who taught us the African method [for braiding hair] and we started out with a hairdresser and a manicurist.” It was a success, but the Afro N’Zinga was not just a salon. “It’s a business, but so far today it is seen as a movement,” says Graças, a pioneer in the advocacy of racial issues in the capital.
A bit later after the emergence of Afro N’Zinga, appeared in the Centro de Ensino Médio de Taguatinga (CEMTN or Taguatinga High School Center) a movement for the affirmation of black beauty started five years ago and is celebrated every year in the month of November, the month of Zumbi. In the late afternoon of one particular Friday, the official jury chose the 12 most beautiful black teenagers (and not all of them were really black) among the roughly 1,500 students at the school. In previous days, the popular jury had made its own choice.
The most beautiful black students of CEMTN in the judgement of the jury were, amongst girls: Sayonara, Ana Alice and Leticia. Amongst the boys: Paul, Benedito and Hendrix. The official jury chose Ana Alice, Sayonara and Gilead. And Raniere, Luiz Henrique and John Mark. Although it might appear to be exaggeration, the lives of these boys and girls in the school and the community will change from now on. “We realize that there is an improvement in their self-esteem, other students start to see them differently and they come to be seen as some of the most beautiful boys and girls in the school. Everyone wants to date them after the contests [laughs]”, says teacher Elidete Teixeira da Silva, the organizer.
When white-skinned students complain about the lack of a promotion for the choice of the most beautiful among them, the teacher explains that whites do not need encouragement to recognize beautiful. “Nobody questions the beauty standard, the blonde, the white girl. Black people are the ones that people don’t know are beautiful. We want to extend the concept of beauty. We’re not saying that white is ugly, we are saying that black is beautiful.” The CEMTN beauty pageant is one of the educational activities of the Sankofa Project coordinated by Professor Elidete Teixeira. Sankofa is an African ideogram meaning “it is never too late to go back and take what was left behind.”
*Two shopping centers located in the exclusive Asa Sul neighborhood of the Plano Piloto region of the Federal District

Source: Correio Braziliense 
About Marques Travae 3244 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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