NY Times Probes Brazil's Blond Ambition

In a country brimming with black and brown beauty, European looks are favored.


Brazil is celebrated for its abundance of exotic feminine beauty in all shades of the rainbow, but according to the New York Times, the modeling world (stupidly) passes over darker complexions for a whiter shade of pale.

Indeed, [model] scouts say that more than 70 percent of the country's models come from three southern states that hardly reflect the multiethnic melting pot that is Brazil, where more than half the population is nonwhite.

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 pattern creates a disconnect between what many Brazilians consider beautiful and the beauty they export overseas. While darker-skinned actresses like Juliana Paes and Camila Pitanga are considered among Brazil’s sexiest, it is Ms. [Gisele] Bündchen and her fellow southerners who win fame abroad.

"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," said Erika Palomino, a fashion consultant in São Paulo. "It is embarrassing."

Some scouts have begun tepid forays to less-white parts of Brazil. One Brazilian designer, Walter Rodrigues, recently opened Rio Fashion Week with 25 models, all of them black.

But here in the south scouts still spend most of their time hunting for the next Gisele, and offer few apologies for what they say sells.