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The Myth of the Beautiful Mulatto :: A True Melting Pot Experiment

May 3, 2007

So there is alot of hype surrounding how beautiful Brazilian women are. Almost as if it´s a country full of these beautiful mystical magical temptresses, all with defined legs and abs and just the right amount of lusciousness in the butt and the chest. Seems like its damn near every mans dream to get to Brazil and have a freak fest at some point in his life. Now mind you Brazil is a VERY large country and it´s as different geographically and culturally from one coast to the next as America is. Some regions its hard to find a “White” person, others you won´t find “Blacks” at all. However, having traveled on the Northeastern Side down to Rio in the South, I must say that the myth of the Brazilian woman just isn´t true. But how could it? No country of women could live up to the reputation that Brazilian women have developed. Are there good looking women here? yes. More than anywhere else? Well now that depends on your definition of beauty…..

From what I have been told about 40% of Brazilians identify themselves as mulatto. I´ve been in the country for over a week now and I am still very unclear about what exactly constitutes a mulatto, because its a very different definition than what we consider mixed in the States. For example, someone who would be considered a bona-fide- no-questions-asked Black person in the US, would usually be considered mixed here. For Blacks in the US, if you have an ounce of Black blood in you…. you are Black, no if ands or buts about it regardless of what you call yourself. Though this is changing with each new generation of brown children, as it currently stands at the end of the day you are Black if anyone can find it anywhere in your face, body, or hairline. As far as I can tell, the way it works here is that if you do not look first generation West African yet you aren´t Anglo enough to pass for white than you are mulatto. What is considered White here is also a very foreign concept as well seeing how some who call themselves White, who feel they are light enough to ¨pass¨ would be laughed at and called traders in the States. A funny funny very tricky thing race is. So ever present and real, and yet it is a completely abstract category for identification. It hurts my heart to see so many people people who will do anything to get out of being identified as Black in most places in the world, but in truth we only abandoned this notion in the States rather recently (circa the Black Power Movement).

There are so many people here who are are mixed racially, that categories are very difficult to define. Noone has yet been able to give a definitive answer on what group I would belong to here because so much of it is tied to socioeconomic class as well.

So I´ve decided that all the hype about beautiful Brazilian women is really about this being a country populated with people who fulfill the “O aren´t mixed kids just so cute! It´s like the best of both worlds!” notion. Fucking disgusting. So what makes the women here so special as compared to any others? The “exoticness” that comes when you mix races. One doesn´t even need to come to Brazil to witness this. The Brazilian women that are considered the most beautiful (such as those represented in the media) are not the ones that represent the masses of the country, but rather those who have achieved that “special blend” of mulatto, meaning they have preserved Anglo features while sporting naturally tawny tan skin and curviness that can only be achieved with a bit of Negro in your blood. The Portuguese people came here with the intent of mixing with the indigenous Indians and the African slaves to create their own new race of people to inhabit this land and from looking around I will say that they have just about achieved that. Taking into account all of the skin tone issues that Blacks still deal with in the States it is hard for me to be enchanted by the all of these so-called beautiful people. Frankly, it just makes me sad because it is yet another reminder that what is naturally of African descent/Black is far from ever fulfilling the aesthetic of what is beautiful, not just in the US but all over the world. How depressing.

19 comments

  1. Gee,

    You may have made your point about the mix of our races, but you sound so racist and prejudice! What are you doing there?

    Monique


  2. What exactly per se makes me racist and prejudice? If anything this was my perspective of the racist/prejudice attitudes that have influenced and skewed the lives and beauty lenses of peoples of African descent all over the diaspora and how that plays into this Brazilian beauty fantasy.


  3. excellent piece!!! the person who called you a racist is an idiot. If you ask the average person in the United States to name a beautiful black woman you will get Halle Berry a thousand times hands down. Not that Halle Berry isn’t beautiful but she’s also half white. White is considered beautiful because its white. Black is considered “more” beautiful of course when it is mixed with something. That explains the hoopla about mixed kids. Besides why do we think Latinos are suddenly the IN STYLE and favored minority. Black however is just…..well black. Not considered beautiful.. not American… nothing more than just black. How pitiful


  4. I wholeheartedly agree! The thing that makes us “just black” is our lack of seeing ourselves as beautiful. I urge everyone to tell their child they are beautiful every chance they get. Tell them how beautiful their skin and hair is. When I grew up as a little girl me and my friends would joke around about who has nappy hair.

    Folks this way of thinking is a “learned attribute.” Your kids are going to learn “something”. Just make sure it is something that makes them feel comfortable in their own skin. And when you do see someone who has the “black” features. Compliment them. It will make them feel better in their skin. It is time to start making a change. Pass this positivity on.


  5. Just happened across your thoughts. I don’t think you are racist at all, just making observations that, if we get past the political correctness of it all, happen to be true.

    I am black, not American though, and my husband is white, not American either. It has amazed me, and infuriated me in some ways too, how many people have told us “what beautiful babies” we will have. The context in which they say this points to it having nothing to do with how attractive (or unattractive) we may be, but rather with the mixing of our colors.

    It just irks me when this happens — what if my husband’s skin happened to be darker than mine? Does that mean our (as yet hypothetical) baby would not be beautiful? Does that mean that my mother, or brother, or other family members are not beautiful? It just seems really wrong to think like that.


  6. latino is not a race and technically halle berry probally isnt half white or half black because whites are mixed with indian and black usually, there are 50 million whites with black ancestry but they still get called white. and black americans are mixed with indian and white 95% r mixed with something else. halle is probally at least 30% black 30-40% white and the remainder indian.skin color doesnt prove anything either because it doesnt take tht many genes to make up skni color u could b darker than someone and still have more white in u then them or u could be darker than someone and be lighter than them


  7. Sister interesting post, but I think you have some serious reality perception problems if you believe black beauty is constructed any differently in the U.S. I mean, c’mon: Halle Berry and Beyoncé are both the type of American black woman who’d be called “mulatta” in Brazil. I do not see very many dark-skinned black women with western african features being touted by the American media and fashion industry as “beautiful”.


  8. Ron,

    I was never arguing that beauty is constructed any differently in the US than it is in Brazil. I didn’t really go into paralleling the two beauty standards because that isn’t what the post was about. If anything, it was more of a critique of the American standard of Black beauty because I was addressing all the hype Brazilian women get from American men. My larger point was that not only is America’s beauty standard no different, but it’s disingenuous because on the surface Black Americans are supposedly more enlightened. The types of conversations people had with me (a stranger) about race and color and what is and isn’t acceptable would have never happened in the states. Yet, our demons shine through when even so called “conscience” folks who vehemently protest the evils of the European beauty standard and are supposed to know better turn around and drool like a beast in heat whenever someone mentions women of Brazil.

    Somehow women of Brazil fall outside that conversation on the origins of the beauty standard and all I was saying is that it’s bullshit for 2 reasons.

    1. The women who make up the actual country as a whole do not look like the images of Brazil that are projected. (even the country of Brazil seems to be in denial about what it looks like)

    2. Brazilian women are not some sort of special brand of magical mystical mulatto. For those women that do fit the “omigod SHEEEEE’SSSS GORGEOUS!!!” image, they are really just plain ole regular mixed chicks that you can find in any country anywhere.

    So if nothing is particularly spectacular about them other than the sheer number of them in the country, then swooning over how beautiful Brazilian women is just more proof that the slavemaster mentality of division through the color line is still alive and well in AMERICAN communities and that we aren’t as far away from the paperbag test as we might think.

    ……twas my point


  9. “If anything, it was more of a critique of the American standard of Black beauty because I was addressing all the hype Brazilian women get from American men”
    .

    We are definitely agreed on that point.

    “…because on the surface Black Americans are supposedly more enlightened”

    And here we come to the nut of the problem. Many Black Americans still believe – in their heart of hearts – that old racist saw put forward by Marcus Garvey that they are the most “advanced” black people on the planet and are thus “destined” to guide the others for their own good. Black American imperialist presumptions seem to be what’s causing your cognitive dissonance here and not Brazilian culture.

    “The types of conversations people had with me (a stranger) about race and color and what is and isn’t acceptable would have never happened in the states.”

    Welcome to the wonderful world of culture shock.

    To judge another people as “backwards” based on the presumptive superiority of one’s own beliefs is properly called “ethnocentrism”. Maybe Black Americans should ask themselves WHY black Brazilians say what they do instead of ipso facto presuming that it’s inferior simply because it’s different from what Black Americans say? In spite of Black Brazilians’ supposed “backwardsness”, they do seem to have managed to do quite a lot, something that would be impossioble if they were the racist brainwashed little monkeys many black americans seem to portray them as.

    “(even the country of Brazil seems to be in denial about what it looks like)”

    And Black America isn’t? Do you know how many obviously mixed race Black Americans I have met who have assured me that they are 100% African in ancestry? Go down to your corner store TONIGHT and tell me how many African-looking women you see on the cover of America’s “black” magazines. And while your there, check out the hair-straightening section of the beauty products aisle and then tell me about Brazil’s lack of afro-consciousness.

    “So if nothing is particularly spectacular about them other than the sheer number of them in the country, then swooning over how beautiful Brazilian women is just more proof that the slavemaster mentality of division through the color line is still alive and well in AMERICAN communities and that we aren’t as far away from the paperbag test as we might think.”

    The fact that the U.S. HAD a “paper bag test” – something which many black Americans conveniently forget when they wax poetic to black Brazilians about how “united” the race is in the States – should tell you that Brazil and the U.S. are not all that different to begin with.

    Bottom line: the lighter you are, the better it is, in Brazil or the U.S. All the racial unity rhetoric in the world doesn’t change that one simple fact.


  10. Beautifully stated Ron !


  11. Ron, I agree with you there… however… even if you happen to have light skin, but your features is classic black (example: broad and/or fleshy nose), you still won’t be considered “all that”.
    I think you will be considered more attractive if you have caucasian features FIRST. (i.e. sharp/tall/small nose). The skin color comes second.

    point in case:

    Alicia Keys is considered a beauty whatever the color her skin happen to be- whether she is very tan or very light (due to weather and level of exposure to the sun). In addition, she don’t have to depend on her body for anyone to agree that she’s gorgeous. She can wear a bag over her body and still be put in the “naturally, no question beautiful” box. She could even turban-wrap her hair if she wish, have a wild afro hair or even be bald and still be agreed upon as beautiful.

    On the other hand, people like Tyra Banks and Rihanna need the “light skin” help. If they get too dark, they will be overlooked. Or, they won’t be ugly; but they won’t be viewed as extremely gorgeous either. Also, they have to rely on their body ALOT. They must show skin as much as possible or wear funky clothes. As for the face, they must make sure that they apply the most complimentary make-up. Wrong or no make up will just not cut it for “someone who is considered beautiful by both black and white/brazil and america, etc”. All these is to compensate their more dominantly black features. (I’m aware Tyra had nose surgery, but she still have an african looking nose as compared to Alicia Keys. And then again, the fact that she needs a rhino to reduce the size of her nose shows that the facial features comes FIRST before the skin color for any biracial girl to be considered “really attractive” in any race or country)


    • another case in point of how the facial features is more significant than the color for a biracial to be considered as really gorgeous or attractive in any race or country is Jessica Alba. Nuff said.


      • oh ya but some say J. ALba has no black blood. Ok then… how about the late Aaliyah or Christina Millian?


  12. I don’t understand why defining theirselves as mulatto/a(s) is an issue. I actually think it is a much better system than we have here in the states. Why do people have to prove their fidelity to their blackness by only identifying and praising their blackness? I understand that the slave mentality runs DEEP here and in Brazil and white is right but where does that leave the people who are of mixed race. Overcompensating for past injustices or current improper states of mind (or whatever you want to call the whole “white is right” thing) really leaves people who contain many bloods standing out in the cold. Am I, as a person who still identifies as black on everything and to everybody, supposed to completely ignore my Irish and Indian ancestors because black supersedes all due to past/ present denigrations and misperceptions? I don’t feel that discounting non-blackness is any fairer than discounting blackness. So perhaps the answer is for the “enlightened” black/ african americans in the US to give people some breathing space and not require all brown/ black skinned people to squeeze into this strange cubby they have constructed with them, or run the risk of being accused of not embracing their blackness or whatever else they come up with. Why not let people be who they want to be? Let me finish by saying I do understand how painful it is to see some people/ the masses try every way imaginable to disassociate theirselves with anything black. I find it very irritating that people can’t see that beauty can be found in every country in the world, but pigeonholing/ guilting people into denying non-black ancestors is not the way to get this point across either. For instance I hada a very “interesting” convo with a cabbie a while back from the Dominican Republic about race. Because I spoke fluent Spanish he asked me where I was from and I told him here (we were in NYC) and he said well what are you and I said Black. And then he proceeded to tell me that I was not Black and that I should not say that as Black women are unattractive! And then he continued on, in between marriage proposals, to tell me that my nose was too fine and my lips to small and hair too nice to be black. And then on he continues to tell me that I should double check with my mother to find my true lineage and that if we were to get married he would tell his whole family back in the DR that I was a dominicana that was born here and absoloutely NOT tell them I was black. While he was saying all of this he was pointing out all of the “unattractive” black women that passed and how they were distinctly different from me. Now to any American I would just be a Black girl (because of my medium brown skin color). So I said all of that to say this, yes black is beautiful no denying it, but so are other races and allowing people space to express their love for all that went into making them is not so bad. So if the Brazilians want to consider themselves mixed race and not just black or african or whatever…and they are…then they should be allowed. The whole racism against reverse racism thing we have going on here in the States is not neccesarily the best policy and leaves a lot of people out in the cold, myself included.


    • The truth of the matter is, black isn’t beautiful. Negroid facial features are universally considered less attractive than Caucasoid features. This isn’t a culturally ingrained thing either.


      • I beg to differ. People are getting butt implants, lip Botox, etc to mimic black features. I think that the features coupled with a dark skin tone is considered unattractive but those same features on a lighter tone or “Caucasian” (outdated anthropological term) features on a darker person are typically considered attractive.


  13. I don’t get how this disproves the myth of the beautiful mulato. Brazil’s women aren’t legendary for being that exceptionally beautiful. They are legendary for doing it in the butt.


  14. I take it you are black and a bit bothered that mixed race ppl are regarded as beautiful. For the record most of us know deep down that beauty and homeliness do not discriminate. But I think the rich models and famous women of any country are not going to be an accurate representation of the common people. For example many americans think that Mexican women are unattractive because a good number of financially less fortunate ones migrate here and typically are focused on their children, not their bodies. But the reality is that young Mexican women and the famous are strikingly gorgeous. That is just life.



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