Racism in Catwalk, Blacks Kept Out in Brazil

by Medindia Content Team on  January 19, 2008 at 12:20 PM Lifestyle News
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Racism in Catwalk, Blacks Kept Out in Brazil
Brazil might be one of the most multi-coloured nations in the world. It has more people of African descent than any country outside Africa. But still blacks keep getting a raw deal in that country.

Like they are nowhere to be seen in the fashion show now on in Sao Paulo. A majority of the models taking part are white, almost European in appearance.

The owner of one agency that promotes the work of black models says slavery may have been abolished long ago in Brazil but the shadow is lengthy.

"It is like abolition never existed. It is a facade and the history continues," Helder Dias told the BBC News website.

"The black models can't get jobs and have no access, don't have a good distribution of money or earnings and live in a sub-world, because there are no job opportunities."

The British stylist Judy Blame, and Michael Roberts, Fashion and Style Director of Vanity Fair, have both been reported as voicing their concern and surprise after visits to Brazil.

Style does not have colour, Blame is said to have remarked.

And outside the landmark Bienal building - where Sao Paulo Fashion Week is being staged - young black models voiced their frustration.

"I think the business is smaller for black girls," says 19-year-old Rafaela Favero. "But I don't know if it is because we are just black - but we are different, our pattern of beauty is different - our hair and our bodies."

"In a fashion show it is practically impossible," says 24-year-old Rafael Milagres.

"You have to have luck, and someone that suggests your name. Because nowadays to do a fashion show you have to be in an agency with a majority of white people, as is the case with most agencies in Brazil, while just 2% of models are black."

However, leading Brazilian designers say there is no deliberate intent to exclude black models and they insist the fashion world only reflects wider society.

"Brazil is a very ethnically mixed country," says designer Fause Haten. "We have many black people, many Japanese. In reality Brazil is made of this mixture, which also appears in our catwalks."

Dudu Bertholini, designer for Cori, whose show on the first day involved no black models, was adamant: "If the models are good, it doesn't matter if they are black or white."

"I don't say no to black models, I love black models. I didn't wear because I didn't feel like wearing, not because I have any prejudice in wearing black models."

When the BBC's Gary Duffy asked him about claims from black models that they found it hard to get work at shows like Sao Paulo Fashion Week, he sounded surprised - "They do? Are they good models? Are they beautiful? Are they tall? Are they good enough?" he asked.

Increasing diversity among people in modern life was a key theme for this week's Sao Paulo Fashion Week, but it often seemed the most visible black faces were those working away from the glamour of the catwalk.

Fashion journalist Erika Palomino had harsh words for the world of fashion.

"Sometimes people in the fashion industry can be very, very dumb, they can be very conservative and sometimes they get things very late," she says.

"I guess it would be wonderful to have black models."

But the man behind Sao Paulo Fashion Week thinks the scarcity of black models reflects wider problems in Brazilian society.

"I think this reflects Brazil's social exclusion," says Paulo Borges. "I think fashion works with a wide range of profiles and a wide range of aesthetic qualities."

"There are several black models who do shows, and there aren't more because I believe the history of the black race in Brazil is still about having little access."

There seems little doubt that the major fashion weeks here have brought some distinctive Brazilian flair and excitement to the industry.

But it appears those who want to see the public face of fashion here truly reflect the diversity of this society may have to wait some time.

Source: Medindia

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