Note from BW of Brazil: There was no way I couldn’t notice it. Everyday in the city of São Paulo millions of people take the subway and the train to get to their destination. I remember reading on poster within the Barra Funda terminal in São Paulo a few years ago that everyday, 3 million people pass through the Barra Funda terminal alone. At the Barra Funda terminal located in São Paulo’s west zone, one can catch the subway, the train, numerous buses that will take you throughout the city or catch a bus that will take across the city or even out of state. In fact, I’ve taken every form of transportation from Barra Funda to get to where I’m going.
About three weeks ago, on a commute to perhaps São Paulo’s most important avenue, Avenida Paulista, I was literally in awe of an advertisement of which I started this post by saying there was no way I couldn’t notice it. In São Paulo, wherever you go, you will bombarded with advertisements. Advertisements on digital billboards, video advertisements, newspapers advertisements. Subway TVs that broadcast advertisements. Most of the time, the ads feature products that I will never buy, but in all my years of experience in Brazil, one thing was glaringly clear: Brazil does not like featuring non-white faces in ads. Every year, I remember flying into São Paulo’s Guarulhos Airport and seeing the enormous billboards of white women like supermodel Gisele Bündchen bringing attention to whatever product they were promoting.
And it is this ultra whiteness for which I must discuss this topic today. A few weeks ago, I mentioned how I had to do a double take one at a magazine stand when I noticed more that a few black faces on magazine covers. Again, not that they were anywhere near the majority featured on the endless stream of magazine covers at any given stand, but in Brazil, when there are more than five magazines featuring black faces, that’s something.
Well, perhaps a week after noticing a handful of magazine covers with black folks on the covers, I had entered the Consolação-Paulista tunnel that tens of thousands of people walk through everyday to go from the subway’s yellow line to the green line. And this tunnel is one long advertisement featuring, I’m guessing 7-8 feet posters down the tunnel’s two main corridors, which take about 3 minutes to walk through when it’s not too crowded. In these corridors, I’ve seen a number of ads for the latest Netflix series, promotions for credit cards, and art exhibits. But a few weeks ago when I entered one of these corridors I couldn’t stop gawking when I saw the entire corridor featuring wall to wall black women and girls in an ad for a hair product.
The black women and girls spanned the gamut of skin tones associated with black people, from high yellow to dark chocolate and all of them rockin’ their natural hair, which also spanned the gamut of kinks, coils and curls. The hair products were by Salon Line and the words appearing with the black children, teens and women said it all: ”Salon Line celebrating rainhas crespas e cacheadas (queens with kinky/curly hair)”. Never had I seen an advertisement in São Paulo with so many images of only black girls and women that were so large in one place. And the message was just as important.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Brazil has long made its African descendants ashamed of their kinks, coils and curls, so it was the standard for decades that black girls, teens and women simply straighten their hair to conform to the European beauty standards dictated by not only Brazil’s media, but by Brazilians themselves. But with the rise of new black identity politics, black events and a rising black demand for representation, everyday we see more and more black folks wearing not only their natural hair, but all sorts of accessories that show off a new pride in blackness that has been seen before in Brazilian society.
After passing through the corridor, I knew I would need to plan a day when it there weren’t so many people walking through so I could take a few shots of these amazing images. A few of the shots appear above. Now before you think, these images are television images, which is what today’s post is supposed to be specifically about, but the general theme is advertising, so I thought it would be a good time to cover this display. Along these same lines, along with the increase of black faces on magazines and then the blackness featured in subway tunnel, there has also been a noticeable increase in the number of black Brazilians being featured in television commercials.
In reality, there have been so many of late that I can’t even remember all of them. The ad featured at the top and below are recent commercials for the TIM cell phone carrier, MercadoPago for online payments, Uber Lite and the Natura Luna Rubi perfume. And this is just a small sample of the recent ‘enegrecendo’, or blackening of the advertisement business.
As I’ve written before, I’m not one to buy into fads, trends and the flavor of the month, and even with the increased numbers of Miss Brasils in the last few years, and a few black faces on the super-white magazine stands, let’s wait and see how long this lasts. And even if it doesn’t last long, I still thought it was definitely news worthy.
Research shows increased presence of blacks in TV commercials
A study conducted by the Head advertising agency analyzed 1,822 advertising campaigns aired on Brazilian television
Black women and men in TV commercials increased in 2018 in Brazil, according to a study by Heads. 1,822 campaigns broadcasted on Brazilian television were analyzed.
In the first study conducted by the agency in July 2015, the percentage of black men as protagonists of the campaigns was 1%. In July of last year, the number rose to 11%. Among black women, participation increased from 4% to 16% in the same period.
In is also a well-known fact that Brazilian society has always rejected from its standard of beauty, any hair texture that isn’t straight or at least close to straight. Black women and black men have long dealt with the issue by simply conforming to these standards. Women by using some sort of hair straightening technique such as the chapa flattening iron or the progressiva keratin treatment, while the men often times simply cut their hair very close. But in this regard, we are also starting to see signs of a change. The same study shows that in 65% of commercials women have natural hair: wavy, curly or crespo (kinky/curly).
This is good news for models such as Débora Rodrigues da Silva Oliveira. Like tens, if not hudnreds of thousands of black women, Oliveira went through of process of being able to accept her natural hair.
“People look at me, see my hair and say: ‘Wow, it’s fashion, your hair is fashionable, everyone is wearing it’. No, it’s not fashion. I accepted myself like this. People have to accept themselves. People have to see who they are and they are hiding it. It’s the most beautiful thing that exists and people are camouflaging it”, says Oliveira.
Despite the advancement, the advertising market still has a ways to go in achieving equity. White men and women are the majority in the campaigns, at 75%. The other ethnicities represent 25%.
“We see more diversity, more empowering situations, but what we are seeing is that these changes have not been happening at the expected speed. And at the speed that these discussions are happening in society,” concludes Bel Aquino, the researcher.
Helder Dias Araújo, head of the HDA Modeling agency agrees. For Dias, “There is still a long way to go for the advertising market to grow and mature, but so far we are satisfied because the models begin to work and begin to believe that they are part of this business.”
With information from Alma Preta