Where are the black people? Invited to participate in new TV series, singer/actress Negra Li shocked with the whiteness of the cast: “It’s not normal”

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Invited to participate in new TV series, singer/actress Negra Li shocked with the whiteness of the cast: “It’s not normal”

Actress shocked with SBT’s new white cast: ‘It’s not normal’

It’s been a while since singer/actress Negra Li’s name appeared on a post here at BW of Brazil, so it was great to learn that one of the principal actresses of the film and series Antônia will soon be making a return to the spotlight. But being away from TV screens for 11 years, Negra Li was surprised to discover that things hadn’t changed much in terms of diversity at Brazil’s top TV networks.

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New SBT/Disney series ‘Z4 debuted this week

Happy at having receive an invitation from SBT-TV and Disney to appear in in the Z4 series that was to debut on July 25th, her joy turned into a bit of disappointment, or perhaps shock when

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Singer/actress Negra Li recently expressed disappointment in the whiteness of the cast of the SBT TV series ‘Z4’

“I’m loving it, but I feel lonely, you see such a cast, all white. It’s not normal.”

Well, in reality, it is pretty normal. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a Brazilian TV show make its debut with few or no black actors in its roster. Remember that we just dealt with a similar issue in terms of the country’s top TV station, Globo, when it debuted a new novela but attracted attention for the wrong reason. You see, the series called Segundo Sol was set in the northeastern state of Bahia, the state most known for it’s large black population, which was why it’s few black actors caught many people by surprise. But this is actually business as usual form Brazilian TV. After all, it’s not just Globo. A report recently showed that the other two of Brazil’s top three TV networks have nothing to brag about in terms of black representation themselves. And as this is pretty much the norm, perhaps Li shouldn’t have been so surprised.

“It’s because people are used to it, it’s so ingrained, they don’t realize it, and I, because I’m black, I try to see myself in other people who look like me. And I’m sure that at home, the children, the young people think the same thing when they watch TV. It’s lacking representativeness, it’s important that we see ourselves on TV,” the actress said.

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Popular children’s television host Xuxa Meneghel has hosted a number of variety shows targeted at the children/teen market

In the past, Li had explained how she, like other little black girls, had always wanted to be a Paquita. Back in the day, Xuxa Meneghel, one of Brazil’s most popular and beloved TV personalities was the host of a series of children’s TV variety shows. And several of those programs featured an all-girl song and dance group known as the Paquitas.

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Xuxa (in white) with song and dance group, the Paquitas

But the Paquitas were mini versions of Xuxa herself. All white, blonds and brunettes. Negra Li recently explained how watching Xuxa and the Paquitas shaped how she saw representation on TV, because white skin was and continues to be the norm on Brazilian broadcasting networks.

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The Paquitas were a popular attraction on host Xuxa Meneghels chldren’s variety shows between the 1980s and 2000s

“I remember when I was a child and I didn’t see [blacks on TV] and I was desperate. I wanted to be a Xuxa Paquita and it was impossible for me. It was my childhood dream. When Adriana Bombom came up, I said, ‘Wow, I could be there.’”

Actress/dancer Adriana Bombom, also black, was later added to the show and even though she had a regular presence on the program, she was clearly not a Paquita and some people saw her role as being a stereotype of the sensuous black woman, a contrast to the wholesome projection of the Paquitas.

“I know how important representativeness is, and I’m happy to play that role in Z4 in a Disney series, which will be shown in many countries,” she commented.

For her role in Z4 series, Li portrays the seamstress Fátima, a woman who is left alone with few resources by her husband to raise their two children, Jéssica, played by Vivi Santos, and Paulo, played by Gabriel Santana. In the series, her son is a member of a boy-band.

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In the series, Gabriel Santos plays Negra Li`s son and is a part of the boy band Z4

“My children, in the series, have pele morena (light brown skin), a lighter tone than mine. I feel lonely in many works, but it’s very important that I accept doing it, regardless of being a stereotype, a poor, an unstructured family and this is also tiring. It’s difficult.”

Li touches on a number of topics here that are common occurrences in the portrayal of black characters in Brazilian novelas and TV series including the ongoing promotion of the embranquecimento (whitening) of blackness. A long-time complaint of Afro-Brazilian actors as well as critics of the media is that, often times, black characters are always shown as poor, working low skill/wage jobs and usually without any family background on the program. According to her phenotype, Negra Li would be considered a black woman by most people, but the actors that are cast as her children both have a racially ambiguous look which is in line with Brazil’s decades long promotion of darker-skinned Afro-Brazilians producing whiter looking children with whiter/lighter partners with the ultimate goal of the eventual disappearance of all traces of blackness in the Brazilian population as the ultimate goal.

“I know people are accustomed to seeing blacks in these real-life roles, but that’s not all. We could help people see it differently. If TV is a showcase, it can change that concept and show that we are not only in the jails, in the favelas, and that we are in other positions. Who knows, maybe one day I don’t get a role of just any person, not of someone black,” she said, laughing.

Li has long wanted to expand her possibilities as an actress, but she is mostly known for her musical performances. Since 2005, she has released three full-length CDs, participated in a soundtrack, an EP, released several singles, videos and made a number of guest appearances on songs by other artists. Her only foray into the realm of acting was the series and film Antônia more than a decade ago. But not having more experience under her belt as an actress is not due to a lack of effort, as she explains.

“I’ve done a lot of auditions, you know? A lot of auditions for Globo. I’ve done auditions that I didn’t pass and the person who took the role didn’t do well and was never called for other jobs. I really like it when they give me the opportunity and they work me to do the character, because I’m sure I’ll handle it. Auditions are difficult. Sometimes I was in the middle of a tour, with my head somewhere else,” she recalls.

The story line of Z4 is about four talented young men who dream of musical stardom. The series centers around a music producer who can’t seem to catch a break in the music industry after having led a number of performers to national stardom. The producer, played by actor Werner Schunemann, hasn’t landed an artist on the charts in years and no one’s willing to help him get back on, including stars he once put on the map. Determined to prove that he’s still got what it takes, he decides to put together a boy band consisting of four young and talented young men. The series is a joint venture between SBT, Disney and Formata Produções.

About Marques Travae 2900 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

12 Comments

  1. Like I said before, instead of concerning themselves and lamenting at the lack of representation and inclusion, they should be thinking bigger. OBVIOUSLY, there is a gaping need for a black network or two, why is it that none of these black entertainment ppl are working to fill that need? Are they afraid of the success that will come their way? are they afraid of full separation and going their own way? Are they afraid that they will no longer have to look across the train tracks and desire what is on the other side? Black news, music videos, original scripted shows and comedies, original movies, travel show, cooking show, carnival coverage, kids programming, health show, current affairs discussion show. What is so damn hard at getting this done in 2018-2019? The talent is there, so all they need is the financial backing. Black ppl are hungry for this and I am sure they will find those who will pay for access to such a network in the country. We have to start forgetting about these ppl and what they have and seeking inclusion in their things, it’s a constant cycle that never ends. When will Black Brazilians feel ready for owning their own shit???

    Many black non-Brazilian ppl travel to Brazil every year. Is there even a website or handbook available to guide those ppl who would love to spend their money with black Brazilians. Why isn’t there even a guide showing black owned B&Bs and hotels, restaurants, tour guides, drivers, craft shops, bakeries, clothing and shoe stores…etc. These are ways that black Brazil can benefit from the tourist dollars and uplift their communities. There are ways to get the ball rolling and everybody gets a piece of the pie. Yes, work needs to be done, but no matter how hard and laborious it is, whatever work is being done today will be for the future generations to have a better life experience, so it is worth it!

  2. Goes to show Brazil has a big problem relating race relations. They haven’t advanced. Yes America and England has problems but at least they are not why behind like Brazil. We know Brazil was the last country in the western world to abolish slavery, that says alot.

    • Brazilian is most racist country in the world slavery end in the USA 1865 (read the book call slavery by another name) slavery end in brazil in1889 proof that brazil more racist then USA by the what. Different between pardo vs preta

  3. Brazil is way behind in race relation then USA and england best expample Megan marker marry into royal family also black UK are alot more woke then afro brazilian and Africa American there no colorism or wide scale interracial dating skin bleaching and black women don’t wear wig or weave the UK. Like afro brazilian. Need info what differt between prados vs pretas

  4. Sorry i have to disagree with you on the colorism and interracial dating. There is colorism in the uk. Also there is alot of black guys compared to black women dating white women compared to the USA also some black women do wear weaves, but now alot of the women are going natural. Nothing wrong with wearing wig/weaves if you have a medical problem.

  5. Good article!! I and a lot others have been saying time after time we are overdue on establishing our own edifices of economic power. This is what it comes down to first lets just discuss Brazil a country that is comprised of over 50% black and brown people there should be no way the Afro-Brazilians not getting ahead by large numbers by means of socioeconomic status. I’m quite aware of the obvious variables in which do play a role an Afro-Brazilian daily life it just seems from my observation through reading and watching ( T.V.) that they don’t see or chose to ignore the blatant in your face no filter bigotry and systemic racism that only persist to avail their counterparts stay in prominent positions decade after decade. At some point we (American or Brazilian blacks) have to get it together its too late in the game for us re-strategize we know what’s in front of how many more decades is needed to reverse the current problems. Brazil for the most part is consider a second world country as opposed to here in the U.S.A. where Black Americans have somewhat thrive and climbed to a socioeconomic status beyond what Brazil has done despite being just 13% (that number should be higher !!) of the population behind whites and Mexicans (3rd place). We have our own Black banks, schools, media moguls e.g. Tyler Perry, Oprah, and Bryon Allen, Grocery stores ( only like two left) heck Michael Jordan is the only black majority owner of a professional sports team in America, Barack Obama was the nation’s first Black president and a couple of black owned gas stations just to name a few. Lastly, the purpose of me giving a lengthy juxtaposition of the two American countries( north and south) was to illustrate in words how a country of less than 20 %(N. America) black continues to make strides and success all awhile constantly dealing with white supremacy.

    Until next time, Peace!!

    • Marriweather you are right black celebrity like Oprah LeBron James Tyler Perry election of Obama is proof how less racist USA is compare to Brazil. Median white family with education level below a highschool has net worth of 51.3k compare black families with college degree 25.9k net worth in USA. Black families earn $57.30 compare to $100 earn by white families in the USA. 15% of white house hold net worth 1millon or more less then 1% black house hold net worth 1 million or more in the USA Brazil has the largest black pop outside of africa 51 % is black or mixed race what is mixed race in brazil What the differt between pardo vs preta in brazil are pardo just self hating blacks in brazil?

  6. Marriweather you are right black celebrity like Oprah LeBron James Tyler Perry election of Obama is proof how less racist USA is compare to Brazil. Median white family with education level below a highschool has net worth of 51.3k compare black families with college degree 25.9k net worth in USA. Black families earn $57.30 compare to $100 earn by white families in the USA. 15% of white house hold net worth 1millon or more less then 1% black house hold net worth 1 million or more in the USA Brazil has the largest black pop outside of africa 51 % is black or mixed race what is mixed race in brazil What the differt between pardo vs preta in brazil are pardo just self hating blacks in brazil?

  7. Looking for info about afro brazilian incarceration rate compare to African American incarceration in USA also does Brazil have stand your ground laws African American was murder over a parking space in Florida

    • Hey, I think Brazil has a slight high incarceration of blacks just as the US does only difference is that the US is leading the rest of the world in that category. As far as stand your ground laws I don’t (could be wrong) believe Brazil has those kinds of laws. Either case I am planning on coming to Brazil within 2-3 weeks either Rio de Janeiro or Salvador, Bahia which ever city has the cheapest tickets. I want to personally see how things are upfront with the people what’s the vibe (feeling) and I get to practice my basic Brazilian Portuguese language.

  8. Merriweather I’m glad u. Are going to brazil so you can appreciate how better off American AAmerican in USA compare to racist brazil but should not limited your trip to two city Rio and bahia Brazil is a country 207 million pop(175 million blacks in brazil the largest outside of africa) Sao Paulo Brazil largest city metro More the 21million pop .state of Sao Paulo is 45 million pop( 25% of brazil pop lived in state of Sao paulo) . capital of brazil is brasilia 3Rd largest city in brazil. 2.2 millions black incarcerate in USA . entire in of all races in brazil is 700.000

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