Like the rest of the diaspora, Brazil has had a complicated relationship with race. Although the country claims to be a “racial democracy” and boasts one of the largest black populations in the world, the country struggles with racism and prejudice much like its American counterpart.

Recently, the New York Times published an article about Brazil’s booming modeling industry, but as Erica Williams of the Ms. Magazine’s blog points out, things aren’t always as nice as it seems.

As the NY Times piece mentions, model scouts in Brazil routinely try to find women with “the right genetic cocktail of German and Italian ancestry, perhaps with some Russian or other Slavic blood thrown in,” but the reality on the ground is much different. Brazil is a country that boasts a large contingent of brown bodies, and over the years, darker skinned entertainers have been making headway in the country’s media. But in spite of this movement toward more inclusive images, the models that come out of Brazil have overwhelmingly European features.

One fashion expert calls the practice of presenting only European-esque models embarrassing: “I was always perplexed that Brazil was never able to export a Naomi Campbell, and it is definitely not because of a lack of pretty women,” Erika Palomino, a fashion consultant in São Paulo, tells the NY Times. “It is embarrassing.”

Williams argues that the big booty (often times brown) women used to market the country to tourists (men) are not the same women exported to the fashion industry for one reason only: Women of color are good enough to sleep with, but are rarely considered beautiful.

She explains:

Ironically, while scouts search Southern Brazil for women of European descent to fit into their standard of beauty, European and North American men travel to the northeast of Brazil seeking sex with women of African descent who they imagine as hypersexual. 

Walk to any newsstand in Salvador da Bahia and you will find dozens of postcards that use images of black women scantily clad in bikinis to “sell” the area to the rest of the world. This is nothing new. The figure of the mulata, or mixed-race woman of African descent, has long been represented in Brazilian popular culture as the epitome of sexiness. Exported abroad as early as the 1970s in Oswaldo Sargentelli’s world tour of samba shows featuring mulata women, now the term has become synonymous with “prostitute” for many European men who travel to Brazil for sex.

So, while women of African descent in Brazil may be considered “hot” or “sexy,” they are not considered “beautiful” enough to be models. In fact, as Barrionuevo states, “more than 70 percent” of Brazil’s models are from the “three southern states” that have had the heaviest influx of European immigration.

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  • Rayna

    Can I get an Amen?! Brazil isn’t that much different from the USA

  • andryce76

    Brazil isn’t any different than anywhere is in the world
    White is still the standard of beauty to some people
    Brown skinned or darker skinned women are just as beautiful
    women of color need stop letting whites validate their self worth

  • golden_girl

    Amazing how men will travel thousands of miles for sex. Not love but sex.

    • Kinectic

      And they’ll travel thousands of miles back and bring back those foreign diseases to us. Trifling and desperate.

    • QoNewC


      Probably far riskier to have sex in DC than in Brazil. The World Health Organization has commended Brazil on being able to avert the disaster of HIV/Aids unlike other developing countries.

    • Best Guest


      Uganda has done an excellent job at curbing HIV infection rates as well.

      It seems Senegal is catching on this too.

  • dhonesty1

    and we can thank the black men for this as well..

    • Mr. Man

      U sound mad, real mad….

    • PGS

      Wow. You hate black men that much, eh?

      As much as you might like to blame it on the evil black man (maybe next time?), I think we can blame white supremacy for this one.

    • dhonesty1

      @ PGS, u know i re-read my comment and i didn’t see anything saying that “i hate black men”.. nope, not at all.. i love me some black men but i am embarrassed by some of them..

      i would like to see them respect black women more.. that would be nice.. maybe other races would too if they took the lead..

    • Mr. Man


      It was what you said and how you side it, a blurt if you will.

  • Mr. Man

    Wow so sad but unfortunately nothing new…

    After reading this though the first thing I thought of was:

    “Go!! and fullfill your most erotic desire, and when you get back you will marry Imoni”
    – Coming to America

    • dhonesty1

      nope Mr. Man, i’m not mad.. why would you think that?! I am tired of black men embarrassing themselves though.