Brazil Blacker Than We All Think
Jun 17, 2011 - by Lester Brathwaite
"São Paulo fashion week sells the image of a Swiss Brazil where everyone is white and blue-eyed. The organisers ... forget that more than half of Brazil's population is black," says Frei Davi Santos, a Brazilian race campaigner behind a series of protests over São Paulo Fashion Week.
The seeds of the protest were planted in 2008 when an inquiry by São Paulo's public prosecutor revealed that out of 1,128 models booked for fashion week, only 28 were black. Oranizers agreed to a voluntary two-year, 10% black model quota -- affirmative fashion action -- which many designers have reportedly ignored.
Protestors are now calling for a 20% quota in hopes of more accurately representing the Brazilian population, which is 50.8% black. However, that figure means nothing as consumers "still reject the combination of black [models] and luxury clothing".
At least they do according to Vivian Whiteman, fashion editor of the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo. Whitey, as I like to call her, wrote an article on the Brazilian modeling industry's rampant racism that included an interview with Bruno Soares, a booker of Afro-Brazilian descent.
"For historical reasons," claims Soares, "Brazil's black population has been poor and not a consumer of fashion. This is reflected in the casting."
But for Frei Davi Santos, that bigoted cup just doesn't hold water:
"Brazil is a country that still insists on emphasising its European side and discriminating against its beautiful indigenous and Afro-Brazilian populations. We do not want catwalks that look like catwalks in Switzerland or England."