Brazil has just crowned 21-year old model Raissa Santana as the new Miss Brazil. The news-worthy reason? Santana is only the second black winner of the pageant to be crowned in history, and is the first black winner in over 30 years.
The beauty queen rose to the top of 26 other contestants from across the country. Although more than 50% of Brazilians identify as being black, Brazilian media has long since been devoid of black representation.
In fact, positive black female media representation is severely lacking worldwide. A recent study conducted by experts at Georgia State University and Boston University looked at how the stereotypical depictions of black women in media have a lasting impact on how African American girls view themselves and how they are regarded in society.
The study reports that media overwhelmingly depicts black females as being angry, loud, bossy, aggressive, big, and violent. In addition, they are often objectified and sexualized beings, often judged by their physical appearance — especially their hair.
Although women of all ethnic backgrounds are often judged by their appearance, the study notes that “black women are being measured against white, Eurocentric notions of beauty.” Although 56% of women opt for dark brown as their hair color of choice, black women are subjected to much harsher scrutiny. Black women are expected to have “good hair” — which is defined as being as close to white hair, with a “texture that is wavy, silky, soft, and of long length.” So-called “bad hair” has characteristics like tight coils, or a knotted, nappy, or coarse texture.
The images of black women portrayed in the media are often harmful and hurtful, which is why it’s so important that countries throughout the world are embracing the idea of #BlackGirlMagic. The hashtag has become popular shorthand for describing African American women who embody confidence and self-love. In an age where black women are still being told they aren’t as attractive as women of other races, Raissa Santana’s Miss Brazil win is a triumph for African Americans everywhere.
Santana stated that she “didn’t expect to win this title,” and that she’s thrilled to “represent black beauty and encourage girls who have the dream of having something” in order to show them they can accomplish their goals. Santana will represent Brazil at the Miss Universe competition in January.