Note from BW of Brazil: The origins of today’s post actually go back several months. The first incident that made me think of covering this topic was a spirited debate I followed involving the choice of a black male funk singer who included the term pretinha, a diminutive, but affectionate form of the term preta, which means black woman or black girl, in the title of his latest song but whose video featured a non-black woman in the lead role. The second reason came from a conversation that I had with two black teenage students about the latest funk anthem that was blowing up in the streets. After watching the video, the first question that came to my mind was, “where are the black girls?”
Before we delve into funk videos in general (which was covered in two previous posts here and here), we’ll take a peek into the debate around a hit song by the popular funkeiro (funk singer) Nego do Borel. The title of the song is “Pretinha Vou Te Confessar”, meaning, ‘black girl, I will confess to you’. In the video, Nego do Borel is seen making advances toward his female interest, played by popular model Aline Riscado, in a dance sequence that takes place in a house, ultimately ending up in the bedroom. The main point of the debate, that took place on Facebook, was the fact that the song supposedly speaks to a pretinha but that Riscado is clearly not a black girl. For some, she is clearly a branca, meaning white woman, while for others she is a classic Brazilian morena, in this sense meaning a Latina with dark hair and fair skin but not quite white.
As I am not a fan of Brazilian funk, often times I learn about the latest funk jams from young people who are into it or when I hear a song in heavy rotation on a radio station or blaring from countless car stereos in the streets. This was how I discovered singer Ludmilla a few years ago. It seemed that for several months, everyday in streets, I couldn’t escape hearing her 2014 song “Fala Mal de Mim”. After starting out as a YouTube sensation, Ludmilla was soon signed to major record label, released an official CD and would go on to command a million real per month income. It’s pretty amazing how something can be so popular to a certain segment of the population while other segments are completely oblivious to it. This is the case with children’s television programs, video games, sports and countless other genres. It also applies to funk, which is why I sometimes have no idea who the latest overnight sensation is unless I happen to be talking to funk fans.
Referring back to the first paragraph, this was how I heard about the song “Bumbum Granada” by MCs Zaac & Jerry. After initially telling me about the song, the two teens promptly went to YouTube, punched in the song and let me watch it. After about the first two minutes of the video that featured numerous young women shaking their ‘bumbums’ to the funk for the camera, I questioned if the boys noticed anything about the appearance of the women in the video. They looked at each other and then turned toward me and said that they have ‘bumbum granada’, meaning, basically, that the girls have very big and pert asses. But then I asked, “where are the black girls?”. A few scenes later, they pointed to a shot in which the camera focused on numerous women and one of the boys replied, “right there; there’s a black girl.” Without realizing it, they had just proven my point.
But after you take a little time and watch more than a few funk videos, you will realize that, in this regard, “Bumbum Granada” is hardly different from the rest of the endless stream of popular videos of this genre. In some ways, it’s unbelievable how invisible darker shades of black skin are in these videos. If one were to revisit top videos of the “bling bling” era of American Hip Hop from the late 90s and first decade of the 2000’s, one will note that even with a percentage of the women in these videos being light-skinned black women and Latinas (often in the lead role), there was also a presence of black women of which one didn’t have to analyze under a microscope to perceive that they were black, even if many were more on the caramel side of black rather than dark chocolate. In today’s Brazilian funk videos, one can often times count on a few fingers the darker-skinned black women in the clips. The vast majority of the women in these videos are white women and those sort of mestiças (women of mixed race) of which one really has to look closely to see that they aren’t actually white.
It’s something that one will notice in Brazil as a whole.
The dominance of the European aesthetic is such that, when you first set your eyes on a Brazilian woman and you see light skin, at first glance you may assume the woman is branca (white). But upon closer inspection, you will note that the woman’s hair has been straightened and either completely bleached blond or has blond highlights with darker roots being clearly visible. Once you realize the hair has been straightened and bleached, an analysis of the facial features will also reveal that the woman in question is not exactly white, but rather a ‘mestiça brasileira’ who may be accepted socially as white.
In discussing, viewing and analyzing about a dozen Brazilian funk videos, one may be tempted to ask, why even mention or make a comparison with American rap videos, after all, we’re talking about the issue of race in Brazil, right? Well, there are a few legitimate reasons to do this. One, as we have consistently pointed out in the past, the average Brazilian has long been indoctrinated into believe that the United States is clearly more racist than Brazil, a myth that has been challenged and often debunked, depending on how one defines racism.
Two, a country that is undoubtedly racist like the United States has allowed for black culture to carve out its own particular niche/standards in black-oriented markets(black radio, black TV, black beauty salons, etc) at least on a superficial level that hardly exists in Brazil. And three, the funk videos from which the stills were taken for this article were clearly influenced by the ‘bling bling’ era of American rap videos, as numerous Brazilians have rightly pointed out.
The last and perhaps most important point to mention here is that the ‘bailes black/soul’ (black soul dances) had its origins in the mid-1970s in cities that had large Afro-Brazilian populations and were dances in which the overwhelming majority of participants were black youth of city peripheries (see here and here). Today, not only has the sound of funk drastically changed (from Soul/R&B and Funk to Miami Bass and electronic beats) but with its popularity and crossover appeal, feminine representation in the videos is overwhelmingly represented by white and very light-skinned mestiças, leaving the figure of the darker-skinned woman who frequented theses dances in the 1970s and 1980s, for the most part, on the sidelines, even as many, if not most of the male funk singers are of African descent.
Thus, even in an art form that began as a primarily black style, as in Brazilian TV, film, print media and advertising, with its social ascent into the mainstream, the concept of the beautiful, gostosa (hot) and success is represented by light/white skin.
With a rising trend of Afro-Brazilian filmmakers, You Tube content producers, black theater, etc, one would think that funk videos would be another area in which the black aesthetic would find a place. But in the end, these videos once again uphold the dominance of the European aesthetic as something to be desired and emulated once one is successful or wishes to reach such success. Which is partially the reason why so many black women took offense to a black male funk singer featuring a morena/branca in the role of a woman who, according to the lyrics, should have been a pretinha.
Nego do Borel – Pretinha Vou Te Confessar
Now before proceeding into the debate about the popular beer poster girl Aline Riscado being presented as Nego do Borel’s ‘pretinha’, we must first point out yet another intriguing facet of how nicknames can mean different things to different people, even when the terms are defined racial classifications. We’ve already seen debates on whether terms such as ‘neguinha’ and ‘negrinha’ should be accepted as affectionate nicknames or rejected as racial insults. We’ve also seen how black men actually accept the term ‘negão’ as a symbol of black masculinity and/or sexual potency. We’ve also heard from those who believe the term ‘negro’ should be replaced by the term ‘preto’, although they both man black. And last but not least, masses of black women reject being called ‘mulatas’ or ‘morenas’ due to sexual connotations and the diminishing of blackness embedded in these terms in favor of ‘negra’, a term that affirms one’s political/racial identity. To add to all of these twists and turns, we also have the fact that within Brazilian culture, there is a common practice of referring to white women as ‘negas’ and ‘pretinhas’, although both terms literally refer to black women (see debate at bottom of this article).
To introduce readers to this practice which may appear a little strange, we cite a snippet from a BW of Brazil article from 2012 which read:
“In Brazil’s history and mythology, the black woman is seen as possessing special sexual powers that non-black women do not have. Speaking of the term “nega”, a form of the term “negra”, meaning black woman, anthropology professor, José Jorge de Carvalho, tells us that the term can be used for non-black women also. According to Carvalho: “When a man calls a woman of fair skin nega,…this means she is able to preserve for him…something of the sexual mystery attached to the real other.” In other words, if a non-black woman can provide the same sexual satisfaction of a black woman, she symbolically becomes a black woman in the sexual sense.”
The term “nega” was at the center of a debate in 2014 due to a controversial Globo TV series entitled Sexo e as Negas in which thousands of black women made it clear that they weren’t anyone’s “negas”. Here it would be fitting to refer to Stephanie Ribeiro’s reasons for rejecting a term that is a direct connection to the powerlessness of a black woman during Brazil’s 350 years of black slavery:
“‘Não sou tuas negas’ (I am not your negress): Easily explainable if we remember that when it came to the behavior towards enslaved black women, harassment and rape were recurrent. The phrase makes explicit that with the black woman, one can do everything, and with the rest one cannot do the same, and everything is included undoing, harassing, treating badly, etc, etc.”
As such, could what we’re dealing with here be yet another form of cultural appropriation in the sense that, a white woman can carry all of the privileges that white skin bestows upon her and also assume for herself, a stereotype that when applied to black women, dehumanizes, but for the branca simply adds yet another attribute to concepts associated with her image? This ability to appropriate terms such as pretinha and nega is precisely the reason that, while both white women and black women can be objectified in men’s entertainment magazines, the white woman can be imagined in a somewhat ‘respectable’ manner because she retains her status as the woman who deserves to be placed on a pedestal as the adored mother and wife while the black woman’s appearance in such magazines simply adds to the status that was forced upon her since the slavery era: the sexually available woman unworthy of any sort of respect or long-term commitment.
Numerous previous articles on this blog have made evident how many black women feel that this treatment continues to this day. In these articles, these women express their disappointment, hurt and frustration in being passed over for serious relationships by black men who don’t want to “settle down” but suddenly have a change of heart when a white woman enters the picture (see here, here or here). Given this reality within the context of the fair-skinned women that dominate so many funk videos, would it better to postulate that life is imitating art or that art is imitating life? I also wish to make it clear that this writer isn’t merely suggesting that darker-skinned women replace lighter-skinned and white women in embodying sexually available flesh. For one, I believe the direction of these videos could present an entirely different imagery than the “look at me, I have money, jewelry, cars and all of the women want me” theme. And second, it is worth noting that in a few of these videos, the funk singers interact with specifically one woman that appears to be his object of affection. Thus, as we see, white and light-skinned women play the role of readily available flesh as well as the one that deserves special attention.
In closing this analysis, I must also point out that a similar conversation is happening not only in the United States, where so many Hip Hop videos were and continue to be dominated by the presence of light-skinned/’exotic’-looking women (see articles at Colorism Healing here and here), but also in Africa, where the This is Africa site recently wondered, “why are they so many white people in Nigerian music videos?” In the same article, “The ongoing preference for white and light-skinned girls in music videos”, author Cosmic Yoruba goes on to state that “it never fails to boggle my mind how much media representation white and light-skinned people get in the so-called ‘Black continent'”. Now to be sure, it would be an exaggeration to declare that something as frivolous as funk music videos can be so powerful as to control the hearts and minds of its viewing public, but it would also be irresponsible to deny that images depicted in this art form do play into certain beliefs connected to success, wealth, desirability and popularity that millions of people in this age group aspire to possess. And if we were to judge the rise of black consciousness-raising efforts and demands for black representation by the images we see in these videos, one thing remains clear: there is still a LONG ways to go!
(Below is a spirited debate that took place several months after singer Nego do Borel shared news with his fans that his new video for the song “Pretinha, Vou Te Confessar” was soon to be released.)
Nego do Borel – PRETINHA VOU TE CONFESSAR
Anxious and crazy for my new video (“Pretinha Vou Te Confessar”) to come out with the participation of my friend Aline Riscado, release at the end of the month.
Jonathan José: Alan and Emrsn, I went to research the before “fame” to know how it is that many light-skinned black women camouflage themselves with plastic (surgery) and (hair straightening), it’s not her case. She is indeed the authentic white Latina, we have a variety of whites, like we have a variety of blacks and Indians. The choice of her as the muse for this song doesn’t come out well for the funkeiro (funk singer). Do you know what is contradictory, imitating American Rap and R&B videos but the muse of the romantic video is never black. May he mature and get focused.
Jonathan José: Carlos Augusto, the pain of rejection of many sisters is so high, that many don’t even have patience to keep deconstructing the miscegenation ideology in famous blacks, so they go to attack (them). It’s complicit for famous whites that do this, because it encourages the black teen to reject the black woman.
Jonathan José: Etienette, our political leaders and artists are minscule for Africans
Humberto: Is the black girl of the song the one in the photo???
Denise: The question that doesn’t want to be silenced. Where is the black girl???… 🙁
Danny: There were other actresses for you to call. Nothing against Aline. But this one has much more to do with the song’s lyrics.
Fabiola: Have you already thought of if Alcione would sing “you’re a big black man that takes off his hat” and it was a white guy? HAHAHAH. Placing a white girl and calling her pretinha? This is a joke.
Simone: There doesn’t exist a creature of the morena race. Understand this once and for all. Morenas are Cleo Pires, this young lady in the video and others like her, ie, white people with dark hair and that get tanned because of living in this eternal summer. This has nothing to do with being black.
Stella: There is no such thing as the morena race. Morenas, from my point of view, are only people with very dark hair. Example: Dark brown, black. A white person can have black hair and be called morena.
Ysabela: Is he blind, where is the black girl?
Babi Borbofly: Alcione is black and has consciousness and proud of this, many black artists don’t…They want to whiten themselves at all costs.
Brenda: Have you ever thought that pretinha is an affectionate nickname?
Lorena: Brenda, pretinha is an affectionate nickname of BLACK WOMEN! Not for white women.
Inocencia: Geovana, morena is a way of calling a white woman with black hair that is tanned. Do you understand?! She is of the white ethnicity, she’s not red, yellow or black. She’s white with tanned skin. Do you understand?!
Brenda: Ah so if I call you docinho (sweetie) do you have to be covered in honey? Improve your arguments.
Brenda: Let the guy be happy with his video, when it really was something serious, something for you to argue about, you start confusion! Really playing the victim
Babi: Pretinha makes nan allusion to skin color, yes, it’s an affectionate nickname also, and yes, there are “white” people that call other “white” people pretinha with affection, but what are complaining about refers to the fact that using something to makes an allusion to black people, instead of appreciating someone of the color itself, they put emphasis on a “white” person re-affirming the values of a society that doesn’t appreciate the black aesthetic. It has nothing to do with affectionately calling someone pretinha, it has to do with recognition of race, it has to do with the appreciation of black self-esteem. It would be to comply with a social role of ethnic recognition and not only disseminate the common sense of that pretty can only be the non-black women.
Lorena: You say if it’s playing the victim or not, when you suffer racism! Whining of crc
Brenda: I’ve already suffered when I was younger and not even because of this did I die, I’m tired of being excluded because of skin color however I won’t cry not write a text on Facebook like the majority, doing this won’t force anyone to like the black race and won’t change nothing, the most that I can do, I already do, have pride in my color!
Brenda: I don’t keep on with victim playing on social networks
Gustavo: Moreno(a) is a color of hair and not skin, love, wake up
Kamilla: Yes, but isn’t Aline?
Inocencia: Brenda, no Brenda, we’re talking about skin color. You don’t call a pretinha (black girl) branquinha (white girl) because it doesn’t exist. Even better if you, don’t make lame excuses. You said that you don’t see any harm, period. I’m a black girl, you’re a white girl, period. I won’t call you preta because you’re not and you won’t call me branca because I’m not. Docinho (sweetie) isn’t a race, it’s not a skin color it’s a flavor, understand? Such a bizarre consolation.
Inocencia: Kamilla, is she black then?! Yes she is white, she’s not mixed, nor Indian and not black. She’s a white woman that tans, just like Juliana Paes is white and tanned, Kim Kardashian. Some are whites that burn, I have a natural blond friend, but she gets very tanned, not even because of this is she a morena, only because her skin tone is tanned. Yes, Aline Riscado is white.
Inocencia: White equal to paper, only that she does artificial tanning. I know because I’ve already seen her personally and she is really very white.
Viviane: White where? If this woman is white, I’m an albino hahahahahaha
Juliana: Since when is Aline white? She’s only not black, but is parda (brown/mixed).
Gustavo: Pardo is the color of bread paper or envelope paper, she’s white period, accept it
Thamires: I’m white and my mother calls me pretinha
Lidiane: Is this the pretinha to whom you will confess? Because pretinha she’s not, ok…Let’s look at this again then. I think that there many beautiful black women, we aren’t talking about a lack of black women in Brazil, you faltered!
Lidiane: Do you all call the black woman branquinha (white girl) also???? This is all wrong. It’s a nickname, it’s an unfortunate nickname for a white person. Do you want to call your girl pretinha? Date a pretinha! Our color doesn’t serve for nicknames like this, no.
Grazy: You’re offended because it’s not a black girl in the “Pretinha vou te confessor” video, (then) make your video and put a black woman in it. PUT IT IN THE WHOLE WORLD THAT YOU MADE A MISTAKE PUTTING IN A WHITE WOMAN INSTEAD OF A BLACK WOMAN.
Lidiane: If I had this power you can be sure that many things that our race goes through would change.
Grazy: Ah with certainty I would also make changes! But certain things like this are not too much, it’s simply an affectionate term!
Lidiane: But our race doesn’t serve to give an affectionate term to a white person. Pretinha she can be called but really preto no one wants to be!
Lewis: Grazy, would it make sense me calling you branquinha ?
Grazy: I know many white people that wanted to be black
Grazy: It would sense, yes, hey people a nickname is a nickname in an affectionate way, you think that in this way the world will stop calling brancas pretinhas….zzzzz stop!
Lidiane: No no, they say this but they don’t want it in any way. They think our skin is pretty, they use our culture, etc. Now…I want to see them be resistant also, suffer everything that blacks suffer
Lidiane: I’m not saying that Nego is racist. But this attitude leaves a desire for a black guy that leaves the periferia (periphery/ghetto). He should be more conscious. It seems that with Aline he’ll have more success than with a black girl, he will be well-seen by society. It’s smoother for someone lighter, right?
Grazy: I don’t say pretty skin nor culture, I say in general. YES I KNOW PEOPLE THAT HAVE A DREAM OF BEING BLACK AND GOING THROUGH THE DIFFICULTIES THAT WE GO THROUGH, these people are the people have pride in our race. I know lol
Grazy: Ahem, if you think it’s wrong give him a piece of your opinion, it’s yours. But I don’t see any defect in a white woman making a video being called pretinha!
João Victor: It’s his video, if he wants to put someone equal to Michael Jackson and call her pretinha it’s his problem.
Amor Afrocentrado: Pretinho (black guy) Iwill confess…what you’re doing is wrong #PretinhaOnde (where’s the black girl?)
Lidiane: Child, look in the dictionary (for) what “preta” means. It’s not now that you want to change the meaning of the words of the dictionary also, so it’s with me, good luck! (laughs)
Lidiane: Let’s go there, it’s difficult!
Lidiane’s photo (dictionary)
Preto: 1. Of the color of ebony. 2. Dangerous, hazardous. 3. Speaking of or an individual of black skin = NEGRO. 4. The color black. 5. Absence of all colors (opposite of white that is the reunion of all). 6. Attire of this color (example: he went to the black opera)
Lidiane: Preto (black), branco (white), amarelo (yellow) and vermelho (red) are indeed skin colors. We are of the same race, that’s it, yes, but this is color.
Jéssica Silva: Girl, I’m going to comment on this now. Appropriation of color, appropriation of culture, isn’t this world difficult (laughs)
Lidiane: it is sister, it’s really hard!
Rebeca: It makes no sense some of this, pretinha being a nickname? For the love (of god/for god’s sake). Pure appropriation 😩
Leonardo: Lidiane, if you want to see changes do like black leaders, I’m sure Malcolm X nor Martin Luther King would manage anything playing the victim on social networks.
Lewis: Where’s the pretinha there? Brother, are you colorblind? In addition to spreading the palmitagem (black preference for whiteness) do you still have to call a branca preta? It’s whole this whole shit!
Glaucia: I wanted to know in what place in the UNIVERSE does morena become an ethnicity or race? Moreno is a super confusing term that is used to describe tanned white people. Or making a black person invisible. (In that traditional situation in which whites claim that a black person of lighter skin tone is a “moreninha” as if it were an offense to call or admit that someone is black). And in none of these situations does calling a person “morena” change her ethnic or racial status in society.
Juu: The name of the video is “pretinha vou te confessor” (black girl I will confess to you) but the model that participates in the video isn’t a pretinha…..
Milena: Nego, the clip name should be branquinha and not pretinha. How absurd this guy! A huge failure on your part to reproduce this type of racism..
Milena: The term pretinha isn’t racism when not said pejoratively. And in this case, the term pretinha is not the cause of racism. The cause of racism is the inversion of the meaning of the word, which presupposes that a pretinha is really a black woman, and not white. This is very offensive to us black women – at least I feel insulted. Therefore, in this context, the term has become racist and offensive to us.
Lewis: It’s a disrespect and devaluation of the mulheres negras lindas (beautiful black women) of this country! I am awaiting your pronouncement MC!
Sabrina: What happens is that the black himself sees prejudice in everything…Most of the time you don’t mention anything and he is already saying that there is prejudice there…In the same way that calling someone branquinha (little white girl) or branquelo (whitey) and not aggressively, for whites this is not prejudice, the color black is wonderful, and people have to understand when expressions are used in aggressive forms or when they are used in an affectionate way…so we worry less about the skin color, todos somos iguais (we are all equal) before God that’s what matters…for fools skin color still means something, for us humans of the heart, it means nothing…in my view…
Jaqueline: Hey. The video is about a black girl?
Amor Afrocentrado: Did you read the name of the song?
Jaqueline: Yes. Where is the pretinha of the video?
Amor Afrocentrado: Good question
Joana: Where’s the pretinha?
Rita: It’s only missing the pretinha…
Juliana: It’s the web of deception that they like to fall in.