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In excess of 40 black models took to the runway in protest in Rio de Janeiro but they weren’t holding picket signs. Oh no, these bold activists decided to stroll on stage tοpless to protest the lack of modeling jobs being offered to Afro-Brazilian models. I bet you’re wondering if they were male or female models? Well, they were mostly female models. So you can imagine the shock and impact this must have had. Or did it?
The protest was sparked by an agreement reached between the Rio Ombudsman’s Office and Fashion Week organizers setting a 10% quota of hiring black models to walk the catwalks.
Brazil has one the largest black populations in the world, second only to Nigeria with more than half of its 200 million residents being of African descent. In spite of these numbers, Afro-Brazilians report great racial inequality.
Prior to signing the hiring quota agreement, Afro-Brazilian models represented less than 3% of 350 models that graced the fashion runway. This leaves the native Afro-Brazilians feeling that they’re good enough to spend their money on Brazilian designer clothes but not good enough to sell the clothes by wearing them at fashion shows. Bringing in white models is the ultimate slap in the face to what represents the majority of the population.
It never ceases to amaze me how a country can depend on people of color to build and sustain their economies but not provide them with equal treatment. Brazil was the last country in the western world to abolish slavery. Known for its widespread use of slavery, Brazil imported more than 4 million slaves from Africa representing more than 40% of the total population of slaves shipped to the Americas. And its black residents still suffer racial inequality some 200 years after the abolition of slavery.
I’m a bit troubled by this type of tοpless protest. I fail to see how the boldness of going tοpless on a runway helps the cause. Seems to me that it would cause a setback. I envision those in authority using the raucous display to show reason not to include Afro-Brazilian models. I know Brazil is widely identified as a country known as a sεxually free society. So perhaps that’s why they would use bαre chests to display their messages of protest. One female model took to the stage with this message written on her bαre chest, “What strikes you, your racism or me?”