Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Where’s Tyra Banks When You Need Her?

So just the other day, I read THIS STORY about how model scouts in Brazil continue to search for and export to the runways tall, thin girls with straight hair, white skin and light eyes who hail from a tiny little sliver of a predominantly German/Russian village in this South American country—the apparent standard of beauty despite that most of the rest of us think of Brazil as a country full of brown people who speak Portuguese.

Indeed, brown-skinned Brazilians are so disgusted by the white-is-right/black-get-back beauty standard that local prosecutors are stepping in to make sure that at least 10 percent of the models in São Paulo Fashion Week, the nation’s most important fashion event, are of African or indigenous descent. (In 2008, only 28 of 1,128 models in the event were black. Twenty-eight.)

That means the cops gotta police the doggone runways to make sure designers hire brown girls to show off their wares—in a brown country.

I mean, slap me with a silly stick, but whenever hot Brazilian chicks showed up in rap videos and random vacation shots in my brother’s travel portfolio, I assumed that every woman there looked a lot like the Brazilian model Thais Dos Santos Fernandez...

Indeed, until I read that New York Times article, I had no idea this woman, Giselle Bundchen, was considered the Brazilian ideal….

It just never ceases to amaze me that no matter where you go in the world, somebody is damn-near climbing behind the wheel of the biggest 18-wheel semi and deliberately mowing over brown-skinned, kinky-haired curvy girls trying to get to the nearest blue-eyed blonde.

An even sadder tale, though, is the lengths the scouts go to find the perfect white girl in a sea of brown ones—how babies as young as 12 are picked over and prodded and herded like cattle all in the name of “fashion.” Alisson Chornak, the scout profiled in the story, is so gully that he sets up shop in schoolyards and, with the blessing of the principal, photographs, measures, fluffs, poses and takes notes on little girls he thinks are white enough to make the modeling cut. After one particularly creepy recess foray in which he ogled a bunch of little girls, he actually declared—out loud—“There is nothing special here.”


And heartbreaking, considering that the world is full of little girls—brown, white and every color in between—who think they, too, can be models, thanks to the efforts of supermodels like Tyra Banks, whose hugely-popular “America’s Next Top Model” TV competition works double time to not only diversify the magazine pages, ad space and runways of the fashion world, but assure little girls everywhere that they are special. That no matter their color, their size, their background, their wealth, their whatever, they just might have a shot. Or, at the very least, the right to dream about it.

Not wishing ill on Chornak, but forreal forreal? I’m thinking nobody would be all that broke up if he got bit by some fat, toothy, poisonous, stank, ugly bug out there in those Brazilian bushes.

Just sayin’.

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  1. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I thank God that I behold my own beauty. Nevertheless It is heartbreaking how society sees beauty. Working in the hair industry I see this all the time.

  2. Thanks for writing about this, I think it needs more exposure.

  3. u wrote: (In 2008, only 28 of 1,128 models in the event were black. Twenty-eight.)

    Let's do the math.... 28 models of 1,128 equals MORE THAN 20% representation. That is a great percentage. What is the problem?

  4. okay, retraction, 28 of 1,128 that is NOT 20%. LOL

    blame it on the alcohol! :->

  5. @Hidaya... girl? You were about to CATCH IT—LOL!!!!

    I'm no mathematician, but if I add it up like I do percentages when I'm getting my sale shopping on, the percentage is about 2%... in a country that is a majority brown/black.

    Blame it on the 'roc, blame it on the Henny... LOL!

  6. definitely needs more exposure. these scouts don't know how to judge beauty.

  7. Well it is supply and demand isn't it. If we accept these products that push feminine beauty as being the melanin-challenged prepubescent boy look then what should we expect. Our saving grace at this point in history is that America (and much of the world) are more classist than they are racist.

    Support the multi-cultural minded businesses, speak your mind when you are chosen for think tanks and creative brainstorming. A lot of us are afraid of rocking the boat and prefer to cry about the substandard dinghy we get offered.

    The funny thing is having the darker more shapely Brazilians featured in rap video may actually pose a branding issue. Some designer choosing to "pedal their wares" may contend that they do not want their couture to be associated with rap videos, it would be considered cheapening their brand. Meanwhile those very rap videos do a real good job of promoting those very products for FREE.

  8. @Kris: I don't know if I'm ready to say that the rest of the world is more classist than racist... there is inherent racism involved when even in a majority brown/black country, people have to employ the services of the prosecutor to have people with dark skin included in the fashion industry and the standard of beauty never includes anyone who looks like a person of color. The implication is that only white can be beautiful, and the racism comes in when that thought-process invades and rules the institution, to the detriment of people of color. In South Africa, 90% of the wealth is controlled by the 10 percent white population; this doesn't happen solely because of class—race is involved in this. The list goes on.

    However, I can support your point that featuring darker, more shapely Brazilians in rap videos could sully the image these fashion designers have. Surely, though, there are some tall, dark-skinned, skinny minnies who can fit the clothes. Alas, they aren't chosen, either, because the industry has a very narrow view of who fits the bill: white, blue-eyed, blondes. And that's disturbing on many levels...

    Re: speaking up and rocking boats: Man--I'm with you there. I'm all for turning that mofo over if it means our people will be treated better...

  9. And let me follow it with this...if he was bit by a big stank bug...I sure wouldn't be pulling out my can of Raid.

    That's pitiful!

  10. I am new to your blog. First of all, thank you for sharing your thoughts and words on subjects that matter.

    When I read the NY Times article and viewed the site's slide show I was taken aback and couldn't help but wonder if Brazil was trying to pretend to be Portugal and forgetting that the beauty of its country, Brazil, is built on the diversity of its people and the melding of the cultures that found their way there (how they go there is another story). Then I remember we are so sold on the idea of Brazil being a melting pot that we, those outside the country, forget that they too have the color and race issues all colonized countries with slave history do. Let's hope that change can occur in a country where most can claim multi heritages (almost 50% of Brazilians id as mixed or"Pardo") and that example can encourage all of us to see the diversity of beauty.


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