Note from BW of Brazil: I can still remember pretty well when I first discovered YouTube. Its funny because, in some ways, I feed like YouTube was my idea. You see, back when VCRs were the main device used to record programs on television, over the course of about 20 years dating back to when my father first bought the family a VCR, I started recording everything I was interested in. Soon, piles of video tapes containing my favorite sitcoms, movies, football and basketball games, documentaries, etc. started piling up on the family entertainment center. As I had such a great collection of TV programs, I remember thinking to myself, “Hmmm…I’m sure there are probably millions of people out there who have recorded some great stuff that I wanted to see”, just as I probably had plenty of programs others probably wanted to see. I mean, I had Super Bowls, NBA Finals, TV dramas that were in syndication, music award programs, music videos…For a TV fan, my collection could have been a gold mine.
But how could I share what had and maybe get some of the things that others had? I actually thought about a type of magazine or classified section where people could list what videos that had in their collection as well as what they were looking for. As I wasn’t a computer genius, I never really went any further with the idea. It was probably another 5-7 years before YouTube would debut and take the idea that I had and make it into an online file sharing program. Genius idea. In some way, I had actually thought of it, but not quite.
Fast forward about decade, and we start seeing thousands of black Brazilians using the platform to achieve the representation that they lacked in Brazil’s powerful mainstream media outlets. YouTube offered a manner for which an under-represented population to provoke discussions, share opinions and become influential people for a public that was concerned with similar issues. Through outlets such as YouTube, and previously the now defunct social network, Orkut, black Brazilians now had a voice and manner of divulging this new found voice to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of others like them.
Having long been indoctrinated into accepting a standard of beauty that didn’t apply to them (white skin, straight hair, light colored eyes), many Afro-Brazilians were taking to YouTube to declare, there’s nothing wrong with having “pele negra” (black skin) and “cabelo crespo” (curly/kinky hair). It’s actually beautiful! And these same people started sharing their own struggles in coming to recognize their black beauty and, in the process, others who were also brought up in a Eurocentric Brazil began to pay attention and come to the conclusion: “If she’s beautiful, I’m also beautiful!”
Even though I acknowledge that I have problems with YouTube’s policies of censoring, deleting videos and whole channels when people speak too much truth on a particular topic, on the other hand, it’s given many talented people an outlet to share their video productions that wouldn’t have been possible before 2004. Mariana Villanova is yet another popular black Brazilian YouTuber who has managed to become a reference for tens of thousands of people with her videos about black beauty and how to create your most beautiful you. Below is a short write up about her.
Mariana Villanova: ‘The black woman has begun to speak of herself without shame’
With information from Vírgula
Mariana Villanova is an international YouTuber. With followers from all over the world, she, who has about 50,000 subscribers on YouTube and 22,000 likes on Facebook page, splits her time between Brazilians and gringos (foreigners) in her audience.
Her position, however, is milder in relation to racism and the still small presence of black YouTubers in the role of protagonit on the web. “Black YouTubers came on Youtube a little later, black girls didn’t have a main subject to talk about. After this question of identity emerged, the black woman began to talk about herself without shame and people started wanting to talk about it,” she says.
Mariana speaks specifically of natural and hair beauty. So, she gets thousands of comments, views and a lot of interactivity with tutorial videos and advice that spreads across the internet. Her story is below and she told it herself.
I started the channel because I had chemicals in my hair and decided to lighten it. I recorded it and put it on YouTube, and I didn’t know anything about it, I just wanted to post the video and share this information. I posted the video, which is very amateur. Coincidentally, I placed words that people were looking for a lot. About three months later I came back and saw that 7,000 people had watched the video, so I decided to record and went on to tell about my experiences with natural beauty, I saw that it was working, that people interacted, and that made me feel useful and like it.
My audience is mostly women between 18 and 24 years old. Not all are black. Some sympathize with black culture, with cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair). Many don’t even have cabelo crespo ou cacheado, (kinky/curly or curly hair), but end up watching the video because they identify with me in some way.
Responsibility of YouTube in lack of black YouTubers
I don’t think YouTube has any responsibility for this difference. But thie thing is, the black YouTubers came on YouTube a little later, the black girls didn’t have a main subject to talk about. After this question of identity emerged, the mulher negra (black woman) began to talk about herself without shame and people started wanting to talk about the subject. And after that a lot of people came up talking about other subjects, and the comunidade negra (black community) started talking about makeup, books, movies and all the subjects that had an audience to watch. So I think it was a matter of coming first and identification with the audience. Obviously there are more people who watch white YouTubers than black, the number of people who know black channels is lower. I think YouTube even helps, because I have already received several invitations from YouTube to meetings in São Paulo to talk about cultura negra (black culture), about empoderamento negro (black empowerment). And when I received these invitations, I saw that they invited YouTubers who had very few writings. I think that it’s come ad given an opportunity, yes, it’s enough for us to take this opportunity to take what is ours.
I’ve never suffered racism. It only happened once. Someone who didn’t have a profile picture sent me a comment. All my comments need to be approved because a lot of people come there to send a discourse of hate and racism against other people. And this person commented on a video and asked if that was good for cabelo bom (good hair) or just cabelo ruim (bad hair).
Information via Virgula