The Brazil Files: Not So FIERCE – America’s Next Top Model Goes to Brazil

By Racialicious Special Correspondent Wendi Muse

Considering that I am presently living in Brazil, everyone and their mother sent me emails to alert me that this year the America’s Next Top Model “exotic” location was going to be São Paulo, Brazil. Of course, I was on it like white on rice.

I have previously covered ANTM’s behavioral faux-pas (read: extreme insensitivity in relation to the respective racial/ethnic/national identities and/or sexual orientations of the contestants, just to name one of many problems), but I felt the need to take another stab at their culturally-oriented failures considering I am living here in Brazil, visit São Paulo every other weekend, and could safely say, before even watching it, that it was going to end up a hot mess.

In light of the fact that some of the comments made during the show were quite obnoxious, I decided to return the favor. I say let’s squelch fire with fire, ladies. And no, I am not talking about the burning sensation during a Brazilian wax, which seemed to be about the only thing this season’s gaggle of beauties knew about the country that over 196,000,000 people call home.

I have decided to write a little ditty about my take on the show. Check out the clips to see for yourself. Footnotes are provided for additional information. I would have set it to the beat of “the Girl from Ipanema,” but I was too tired from watching the stereotypes and stupidity unfold before me to actually do that. Here goes:

In São Paulo, samba’s not the really the thing. (1)

But hey, at least the girls got flip flops with bling. (2)

Oh and Spanish, speak it they do not. (3)

And in São Paulo, it’s hardly ever hot. (4)

So if you really wanted a sun burn or a tan,

You should have gone to beaches of Rio, a clip of which they ran. (5)

And though capoeirista Eddy speaks quite clear,

They decided to run subtitles as not to offend our AMERICAN ENGLISH ONLY ear. (6)

And Carmen Miranda— for the eyes she’s a feast.

Yet too bad home girl is actually PORTUGUESE.

While made famous as the face of Brazil,

She cemented stereotypes and a fake idea of what’s real. (7)

“She’s always very sexy and Latin,” says Sutan (8)

During a photo shoot in the backdrop of which poor children ran.

A favela it’s called, “oh how cute!” (9)

Look at the poor people who have absolutely no loot.

“It’s touching to get a glimpse of how these people live” says Celia.

But oh, I’ve got some news for you, filha: (10)

On the outside, it may be ugly and covered in garbage galore,

But inside some houses, it looks more like home furnishing megastore. (11)

So don’t be fooled so much by the things that you see:

So-called Brazilian sex appeal or a non-existent sea.

Brazil is a country of its own and not necessarily what we want it to be.

(To watch the full episode, click here.)

1. Samba is actually not popular within every state in Brazil. Music tastes, in a general sense, vary from region to region and even city to city (i.e. larger cities vs. the interior, aka “the country”). In Brazil, samba is said to have originated and found its largest audience in Rio de Janeiro, and was primarily associated with Brazilians of African descent. While there are certainly samba clubs in São Paulo (city), the majority of the clubs for young people resemble clubs in any other large city (rock, hip hop/rap, electronica/dance).

2. The models received Havaianas (awesome, super comfortable Brazilian flip flops) embedded with Swarovski crystals. Value: $200 USD/pair

3. Employing a habit of many an uninformed tourist to Brazil, one of the models begins to speak Spanish to the cab driver escorting her around during a challenge. Many people still seem unaware of the fact that Brazil is a Portuguese-speaking country. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how good my Spanish was before moving here, I would be a millionaire.

4. It’s not hot all the time in Brazil, depending on where you live. São Paulo happens to be a city that actually gets super cold. Natalie, one of the models, continued to harp on her discontent with the cold weather, lamenting the fact that she would not be able to get as tan as she’d like. That’s why you go to the beach, honey (more on that in a sec). For example, today in São Paulo, it may rain and the low is 57ºF.

5. To further confuse American audiences, Tyra & the Gang run a clip of people on the beach in what looks like Rio de Janeiro. The state of São Paulo, of which São ‘Paulo (City) is the capital, has beaches, however, the city of São Paulo, mind you, is landlocked and does not have any beaches. But just in case people would get confused by seeing a city in Brazil that has nary a beach, they had to show one to appease the stateside audience.

6. Ok so first, capoeira is more of a northern Brazilian tradition. Much like the samba story, of course it’s practiced in Sampa (São Paulo’s nickname), but its origins trace back to Africa and have a greater link to northern Brazil, which happens to be where the largest concentration of Brazilians of African descent lives. Continuing on this note, Eddy, the capoeirista, speaks pretty clear English, but they still decide to provide subtitles for the dialogue. It’s like, um, it won’t confuse us too much if we hear English with a non-American accent. Not that difficult to wrap our heads around . . . or is it?

7. Carmen Miranda, referred to as “the Chiquita Banana lady” for the majority of the episode, was born in Portugal to Portuguese parents with whom she immigrated to Brazil as a child. Despite living in Brazil for almost her entire life, she kept her Portuguese nationality until death. Though stateside Carmen Miranda is arguably one of the most recognizable Brazilian celebrities, her legacy causes great debate because her image helped usher in and perpetuate stereotypes of Brazilians, particularly Brazilian women, as overly sexual and joyous at all costs. Her choice of costume is also interesting, as she often employed elements of traditional Bahian* women’s attire.

*of or related to Bahia, a state in the northern part of Brazil known and respected for its preservation of many aspects from West African cultures following the end of the slave trade in Brazil)

8. Resident ANTM makeup artist

9. The word “favela” in Portuguese means poor neighborhood or, in other words, “ghetto”

10. “Filha” is the Portuguese word for “daughter;” often used to mean “girl” or “honey”

11. There is a misconception that every neighborhood in Brazilian cities that has homes with slightly unkempt exteriors equates to being a favela. There are a few neighborhoods within Sampa for example, which look terrible on the outside, providing the backdrop of what seems to be a favela, yet once inside one of these homes, one may be pleasantly surprised. Just like in the States, home construction and upkeep is a costly and time-consuming task, and some people choose to forego it altogether until additional funds or time allow.