When he proclaimed the importance of racial miscegenation to Brazil in the 1930s, the celebrated Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre could scarcely have imagined that he was hailing the future supermodel capital of the world.
“The most obvious thing is the mixture of races that we have here,” says top São Paulo fashion photographer Marcio Neves—who works extensively with “new faces”—of why Brazil seems to produce so many models.
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As Freyre noted in his landmark work Casa-Grande & Senzala ( Big House and Slave Quarters), racial mixing has always been part of the fabric of Brazilian life. From indigenous Indian to African slave descendents, to German, Japanese, Arab, and Portuguese immigrants, the diversity of Brazil’s gene pool has clearly influenced the country’s prodigious production of beautiful people, and never more so than now.
• Dom Phillips: The World's Savviest SupermodelEverybody knows about Gisele Bündchen, the Brazilian supermodel who set new standards not just for beauty, but for earnings. And her fellow Brazilian icons, like Alessandra Ambrosio, have also found fame. But while tawny blondes from Brazil’s South—like Gisele, descended from German immigrants—traditionally made up the bulk of the country’s models, the wheel is turning. “This is changing now,” says Neves. “There are many Brazilian models making success like Fernanda Tavares who don’t have this profile.”
So who’s next? Today, a model needs more than just looks. “The beauty standard is really flexible, you can get lots of different types of beauty. But the model also needs attitude. In front of the camera, it’s like constructing a personality,” says Neves. And if there’s one thing that Brazilian women posses in abundance, it’s personality.
Alicia Kuczman talks to FashionTV.
British journalist Dom Phillips moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2007 to write his book Superstar DJs Here We Go (Random House/Ebury 2009) and works as a correspondent covering news, economics, and celebrity. He now writes for The Times, People, Financial Times, and Grazia.