While I was away, both of my parents each sent me this article which was apparently on the front page of the New York Times (slow news week, I'm guessing). In any event, the NYT's Brazil correspondent, Alexei Barrionuevo, touched the third rail of journalism in Brazil, combining race, beauty, women's roles, and the North vs. South into a single story. The article, which was oddly opened up to readers online, received 250 comments, and the accompanying video has over 30,000 views on YouTube. My guess, based on reading between the lines and the parts of the story the author seemed to want to emphasize is that the article was mandated, and he tried his best to make it as relevant as possible to Brazilian current affairs.
Nevertheless, the article really pissed people off, as to be expected. While the idea that model scouts largely confine their search to the south, particularly Rio Grande do Sul, is not exactly news to Brazilians, but is apparently something of a novelty for the rest of the world, hence the appeal to the Times. It's disheartening that this is the "juicy" story they wanted on the front page, nonetheless, to try to sell newspapers, while there are much more pressing, current and relevant issues in Brazil, like racial quotas in federal universities, or the continued, abysmal socioeconomic gap between the North and the South of Brazil. But clearly, the editors got what they wanted, and created a little firestorm of controversy, leaving some Brazilians irate and some Americans still clueless as to the real, pressing, underlying issues in the story. I guess it's just another sign of the times in the publishing world.
Excerpt: "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. Bündchen and her fellow southerners who win fame abroad."