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10% of models in Brazilian fashion week 'must be black'
June 8, 2010 3:25 PM   Subscribe

São Paulo Fashion Week, the nation’s most important fashion event, has been forced by local prosecutors to ensure that at least 10 percent of its models are of African or indigenous descent. The model scouts see it differently - it's all about what sells. "The goal" Brazilian model scouts say, "is to find the right genetic cocktail of German and Italian ancestry, perhaps with some Russian or other Slavic blood thrown in. Such a mix, they say, helps produce the tall, thin girls with straight hair, fair skin and light eyes that Brazil exports to the runways of New York, Milan and Paris with stunning success." Yet, "on the pages of its magazines, Brazil’s beauty spectrum is clearer. Nonwhite women, including celebrities of varying body types, are interspersed with white models. But on the runways, the proving ground for models hoping to go abroad, the diversity drops off precipitously."

"Prosecutors investigating discrimination complaints against São Paulo Fashion Week found that only 28 of the event’s 1,128 models were black in early 2008." "The Sao Paulo state prosecutor's office had threatened legal action against the organisers unless they increased the number of black models. Companies which fail to meet the new target could face fines of up to $120,000 (£76,000), prosecutors said. The agreement is also largely seen as a response to threats from a black rights group which planned to disrupt the fashion week."

"Clóvis Pessoa studies facial traits that are successful on international runways and looks for towns in the south that mirror those genes." "Yet Brazil is not the same country it was in 1994, when Gisele Bündchen, the world’s top earning model, was discovered in a tiny town not far from here."
posted by VikingSword (38 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Um, they're having a hard time find attractive women in Brazil of all places?
posted by nathancaswell at 3:29 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


My sister is in fashion design, and she was watching some runway show. The interesting thing is how robotic the models are, to the point where it seems like it would just be more convenient for everyone (uh, except the models) to move to robots. Then the designers have exactly the body dimensions they want and they don't have to worry about the models not fitting the weird-ass clothes they make them wear (which, if there's an issue with the fittings can lead to models tripping on the runway). It may even have a net positive impact on body image, since you no longer have real people to set the standard.
posted by spiderskull at 3:34 PM on June 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Why just 10%? I think this is a good thing.. force them to give up their lame, unproven security blanket of "Ohhh it's what selllls please don't make me chhaaaannge" Whiners.
posted by amethysts at 3:36 PM on June 8, 2010


I'm thinking that 50% should be men.
posted by HuronBob at 3:39 PM on June 8, 2010


There is a more limited market in Europe and the Americas for darker skinned, more "ethnic" looking (non-caucasian) models, as well as Asian models. Designers tend to believe they only appeal to a smaller, minority demographic. perhaps thinking that white readers may find it more difficult to relate to fashions, styles and trends worn by non-whites.

So it should be interesting to see now whether the next few years see a plethora of dark-skinned Brazilian models achieving less or more success on European and American runways and in our advertising markets. I hope they will.
posted by zarq at 3:41 PM on June 8, 2010


I mean, I hope they will succeed. :)
posted by zarq at 3:41 PM on June 8, 2010


> I'm thinking that 50% should be men.

Or at least have a penis.
posted by bjrn at 3:43 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Related: only 6 of the "top 55 sexiest South African women" are black (sfw, but scantily clad). Not exactly scientific, but disturbing, especially given the country's history.
posted by desjardins at 3:45 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


...it would just be more convenient for everyone (uh, except the models) to move to robots...It may even have a net positive impact on body image, since you no longer have real people to set the standard.

Either that or teens start grafting bits of metal to their bodies. Transhumanism, here we come.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:46 PM on June 8, 2010


Um, they're having a hard time find attractive women in Brazil of all places?

It sounds like what they want are women who they think will be marketable in the U.S/Europe, not just in Brazil.

only 6 of the "top 55 sexiest South African women" are black

According to some random douchebag who writes for "bro bible"
posted by delmoi at 3:49 PM on June 8, 2010


Um, they're having a hard time find attractive white enough women in Brazil of all places?

White supremacy has a rather narrow view of beauty. See also: Arizona's artistic criticism of school murals.
posted by yeloson at 3:52 PM on June 8, 2010


I've noticed that whenever the NYT has a story illustrated with a photograph of a young and/or attractive woman, that picture will invariably end up somewhere on the newyorktimes.com homepage.

A few days ago, they put up a picture of a poledancer to lure readers to the story about a strip club that had opened in a former school, causing a local uproar. I found that story amusing, although I was a little disturbed that the Times would put such obvious click-bait on its homepage. Well, today, they've put up a picture of a fifteen-year-old blonde standing against a wall as a man measures her waist. It's more than a little disturbing, as is the entire article.
posted by hhc5 at 3:57 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nowhere in the article does it say that they are having trouble finding or attractive women...the controversy lies in the fact that Brazil is mostly a non-white nation, and now they are demanding that at least 10% of their models represent this fact.....
posted by The1andonly at 3:58 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


the controversy lies in the fact that Brazil is mostly a non-white nation, and now they are demanding that at least 10% of their models represent this fact.....

In other words, they're trying to force the white minority to stop being so damned attractive.
posted by Faze at 4:09 PM on June 8, 2010


In other words, they're trying to force the white minority to stop being so damned attractive.

If thats your take on it.....but more like they want to show the rest of their natural resources to the world sounds better to me...
posted by The1andonly at 4:18 PM on June 8, 2010


In other words, they're trying to force the white minority to stop being so damned attractive.

Or maybe...stop me if this sounds crazy...they're trying to give the equally attractive non-white majority a fair chance at success after years of being categorically rejected.

Imagine that.
posted by chara at 4:19 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


The next morning, Mr. Chornak studied the girls returning with red lollipops from recess. “There is nothing special here,” he declared.

Wow, so being a model scout opens up an entire new world of creepiness.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:27 PM on June 8, 2010


"Or at least have a penis."

only one?
posted by HuronBob at 4:37 PM on June 8, 2010


Wait for him to get in touch with his annoying hipster side. He'll be exporting himself as the next Cobrasnake.
posted by Xere at 4:38 PM on June 8, 2010


what.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:45 PM on June 8, 2010


I had mixed feelings about this article, especially the way it was presented, like being a model is really something anyone should aspire to. It's unfortunate that modeling is one of the only ways a poor girl in the boonies can hope to help her family achieve a better standard of living especially if she can't afford university education.

It's also weird that people think being a model is synonymous with being beautiful, when it really just means you're a better clothes hanger, not that you have a prettier face or are more attractive to people in general who are not affiliated with the industry. It seems like the more likely you are poised to become the next Gisele, the more vulnerable you become and the more you stop being able to control your own life. Gisele wasn't attractive before the industry made her appear attractive -- they have their own view of what's attractive that is divorced from reality pretty often.

The money may be either very good or very bad (models have to pay in advance for their headshots, rent, etc. and then they owe a ton to the people at the agency) depending on how well she does. I don't know the stats but it's clear there is a very slim chance of being a Gisele Bundchen (who has a twin sister and a gaggle of sisters who aren't models) even if you have the right genetic stock.

Other than getting the money, what's the point of being a model anyway? Aspiring to be rich is one thing, but a girl should be able to achieve at least a decent living without hoping to be discovered.
posted by anniecat at 4:54 PM on June 8, 2010


Modeling is like sports: the vast majority of people won't make any significant amount of money doing it, and most will fail to make a living of it entirely. Only a ridiculously tiny number of models do well. So worrying too much about who has opportunities is silly to me. For fashion models (unlike catalog, art, etc models) there's a _very_ strict physical type they're looking for. I don't see how thats "bad" or "good" in any meaningful sense, it just is. I don't think it's some awesome career that people are being unfairly prevented from having based on their looks. It's always going to be about physical attributes, and even if you remove one, there will always be people who think its unfair you're excluding another one.

Besides, as mentioned above, fashion models don't usually match what I consider the more "standard" beauty ideals that you see in, say, actresses or lingerie models. Those kinds of roles are chosen much more on "attractiveness", whereas fashion models must be in a very narrow range of height, weight, proportions, etc for both aesthetic and practical reasons (no need to make a variety of clothing sizes for fashion shows, etc).

(I know a lot of models, my wife has been both a model and a photographer of models, etc)
posted by wildcrdj at 5:11 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


If some disinterested party does a valid, peer-reviewed study that proves that Sao Paolo's 10% requirement could not be filled within the current standards of height/weight/visible ribs/dead eyes then I will say "Well OK I guess it was true." But until then I just can't buy it.
posted by amethysts at 5:30 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


It might be a self-esteem issue. Please forgive me for comparing human beings to products, but here goes:
Products in Brazil marked "for export" (or "tipo exportação") are usually at a much higher standard or better quality than what is kept for domestic use. If only the white/European models become famous abroad than by that logic they are in some way "superior" to the models who are famous domestically. Thus by putting non-whites on the intended-for-export runways, it's like saying non-white models are also "up to that standard."
posted by Neekee at 5:30 PM on June 8, 2010


If I bumped into this lady at the mall-ha,ha-I don't think I would be over whelmed by her beauty. Attractive? Sure. But beautiful? No more than many of the South Florida women volleyball players I encounter regularly.
posted by notreally at 5:30 PM on June 8, 2010


bjrn: "> I'm thinking that 50% should be men.

Or at least have a penis.
"

Given that this is Brazil we're talking about, this would not significantly change the look of the runway models at all.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:36 PM on June 8, 2010


fashion models don't usually match what I consider the more "standard" beauty ideals that you see in, say, actresses or lingerie models. Those kinds of roles are chosen much more on "attractiveness", whereas fashion models must be in a very narrow range of height, weight, proportions, etc for both aesthetic and practical reasons

If I understand Brazilian culture correctly, what is considered sexy beyond all else is a big round J-Lo style butt, preferably toned through marathon samba dancing - something probably more common to the black & mixed-race Brazilians, and notably absent from most fashion and catwalk models.

This just reinforces for me the idea that it's not about the white models being "better" but just more suited for foreign markets, and quite possibly not thought of as very attractive at all to most Brazilians.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:58 PM on June 8, 2010


bumped into this lady at the mall-ha,ha-I don't think I would be over whelmed by her beauty. Attractive? Sure. But beautiful? No more than many of the South Florida women volleyball players I encounter regularly.

Look closer at Gisele next time. It's not just being thin, long legs and a nice tight ass. My girlfriend is the same body type as Gisele, only she's a redhead with freckles. She did some modeling when she was in her 20's. She told me it's the arms - freakishly long arms- and the neck-- a long neck-- that makes the difference.

You would be shocked to find out many women out there who people would (rightly) say are "hot" that would never make it in modeling because of those two features.

Thinness is what most people notice, but it's really not just being thin or the "beauty". It's that and the other.
posted by L'OM at 6:13 PM on June 8, 2010


This just reinforces for me the idea that it's not about the white models being "better" but just more suited for foreign markets, and quite possibly not thought of as very attractive at all to most Brazilians.

Sounds right to me. Fashion modeling is a weird, small subset of modeling that has ridiculously narrow requirements.

Thinness is what most people notice, but it's really not just being thin or the "beauty". It's that and the other.

Yeah. In fact, beauty really only matters for "supermodels", models that have some cross-appeal other than pure fashion modeling (and thus need to appeal to people other than fashion insiders). Meeting the specific measurements/characteristics is far more important (to getting work as a fashion model) than subjective beauty. Not that "beauty" hurts, of course.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:29 PM on June 8, 2010


WHITE SUPREMACY IS NOT JUST AN USA INVENTION! COLOR ME SHOCKED!
América the hemisphere was borne of slavery & the exploitation of indigenous peoples. to the status quo, we're not beautiful. and that's the truth.
posted by liza at 6:37 PM on June 8, 2010


What I found creepiest about this story was that, apparently, in Brazil, it's perfectly acceptable for strange men to park in front of schools with a camera and appraise the teen girls coming and going.
posted by pineapple at 7:40 PM on June 8, 2010


As long as the slimy tendrils of racism never pollute the purity of Surra de Bunda, we need not be afraid. Or maybe we do. Not really sure. Oh, Brazil.
posted by fartknocker at 9:36 PM on June 8, 2010


Ugh, the school stalking strikes me as seriously creepy.

My favorite model ever is Alek Wek. In shoots, her color is often played up on, but that's not why I'm drawn to any page she graces, it's her body and the fact that she can smile like nobody else. The leggy, short torso, short neck "normally" (in the model world) proportioned body tells me that anything she can pull off, I can pull off. Despite being her polar opposite in skin color. In short; if she looks great in a pair of jeans, I'm buying those jeans.

Take note of that, fashion scouts who love a certain color. In the real world we'd like to see more body types too. Also, smiles.

But yeah, having created cosmetic campaigns for 48 different countries, I never once managed to hire a woman of color as the main model. "The russian client says no" and "that won't sell in Singapore" sends me straight back to a pile of blond headshots. I can't stand that shallow part of the business where beauty is only blond, so I quit.
posted by dabitch at 3:14 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


On the male side of the spectrum, I never once managed to get a pouty blond guy in for any cologne campaigns either - they all had to be French/Turkish looking brunettes with just the right amount of stubble. So not my cup of tea.
posted by dabitch at 3:20 AM on June 9, 2010


My wife is a black brazilian model and believe me this is a major issue. To sum it up as quickly and simply as I can, Brazil is very racist and more so classist. The problem is that the afro brazilian poplulation are considered the lower class by most so designers generally don't want "low class" models for their fashion line. Even in Salvador which is 80% black you will see the models be 99% white.
posted by LouieLoco at 6:41 AM on June 9, 2010


I mean Salvador Fashion Week.
posted by LouieLoco at 6:42 AM on June 9, 2010


I don't remember where I first saw it, but The Colour of Beauty, a short documentary about a black model trying to make it into Fashion Week in New York, seems relevant to this post. One of the fashion industry people interviewed in the film says something about how they (the New York fashion industry) don't hire many black models, and the ones they do look like white girls dipped in chocolate.
posted by immlass at 7:30 AM on June 9, 2010


Outside of the world of modeling, black Brazilians have apparently been making great strides.
posted by grobstein at 11:32 AM on June 9, 2010


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