I just got back from Rio, Brazil for a study abroad music program with The Ohio State University. I wanted to do a little research on why so many models are Brazilian and about Brazilian beauty in general!
“The five most famous associations with the word ‘Brazil’ in no particular order are: Football, Carnival, Beaches, Samba, and Models” says B S Prakash, Indian Ambassador of Brazil
Watch the Victoria’s Secret fashion show and you’ll see Alessandra Ambrosio, Adriana Lima, Gisele Bundchen, and Lais Ribeiro…all Brazilian. Why? First, the gene pool of Brazil is uniquely diverse. After the Portuguese landed in Brazil in the 1500s, gold, rubber, sugar, and coffee were discovered, leading to mass waves of immigration. On top of the natives that were in Brazil before the Portuguese settled, Germans, Japanese, Italians, Polish, Russians, and African slaves created an extraordinary and eclectic gene pool. In the deep south of Brazil, Eastern European immigrants produced beautiful features like high cheekbones, blonde hair and blue eyes, and long slender frames. The caveat to this is that there is such a wide spectrum of facial and body features that there is no way to neatly categorize an average Brazilian.
Next, the body sculpting obsession has become an epidemic. With over 5,500 certified plastic surgeons, Brazil wins second place in countries with plastic surgeries, both for men and women. Known for his Brazilian butt lift, famous surgeon, Ivo Pitanguy, opened his plastic surgery clinic and institute to train many doctors. Sexualized women are even pressured to have perfect genitals. “Latin women live in a macho culture: he is the one who rules in the office, in the home, in the sex life. Now as women … we are leading at home and in jobs and we want to lead in our sex lives,” said Lina Triana, a Colombian plastic surgeon. Perceptions of beauty are even translated frequently through pornography. There is a uniquely Brazilian expectation to be physically perfect, and it is normal for people to work body sculpting into their budgets. Even Victoria’s Secret models have acknowledged their cosmetic surgeries.
Next, the Western world is a prominent influence on Brazil and its pop culture. For example, the FIFA cup for futbol and the 2016 Rio Olympics brought a lot of fame and attention to Brazil, which brought people and fashion influences from all over the modern world. This pop culture creates an atmosphere for commodification of beauty. Commodifying beauty means that it has value and equates to fame or money. Pageantry is also popular in Latin America and South America, which puts a competitive aspect and prize on being “beautiful.”
Though it is not a direct correlation, living in a warm and coastal city like Rio de Janeiro or Florianopolis gives more opportunities for being on the beach and therefore being more exposed. Being exposed and showing more skin causes people to be more self-conscious on how they present themselves to others. Walking along Copacabana or Ipanema, there are people of all ages working out and running down the beach. Thus, living in a tropical climate is more conducive and favorable to a fit lifestyle. However, it is interesting to note that beauty standards vary in certain parts of Brazil. For example, in Bahia, pregnant and fuller figured women are seen as beautiful because they are fertile and can harvest life. Bahian women also wear long and flowing dresses that are contradictory to the skin-tight outfits of Rio. But thin and muscular women in swimsuits are preferred in more urban places like Rio de Janeiro because it has more of a Western culture that favors smaller, more fit body types.
Carnaval is a celebration in Brazil with African and Portuguese influence that marks the start of Lent. Samba dancers parade through the Sambadrome wearing glamourous outfits that typically reveal lots of skin. The samba schools are in competition and therefore try to out-shine each other with their sexy and glitzy costumes. Samba dancers practice the entire year leading up to Carnaval and therefore are actively exercising almost year-round. Who wouldn’t want to show off a fit dancer body?
As stated before, Brazil has multiple fashion influences including the Brazilian climate, African culture, the indigenous and Amazonian people, and the Western world. Pair this eclectic mix of style with the gene pool and the pop culture of Brazil, and it makes sense why there are so many uniquely beautiful people in Brazil. I saw for myself just how many striking people were on the beach with really toned and thin proportions, which is favored in the modeling industry. Even in the music schools we visited, I saw tan skinned girls with luscious curly locks and bright green eyes. This combination of naturally radiant features is pure gold to the fashion industry. Therefore, there will be generations of models to come in Brazil!