Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Beauty and the Brazilian

“So how are you finding living in Brazil?” asked a friend I hadn't seen for a while when I was last visiting the UK. As I began to reel off one of my stimulating standard responses, “the fruit there is so cheap and as for the weather…” I was quickly cut off.  

“Nice, tell me about the Brazilian women” he asked with urgency, “they’re all gorgeous out there, aren't they?”

It really annoys me when the middle of my sentence interrupts the beginning of someone else’s, but like I said, I hadn't seen my friend for a while so I let him off. No sooner had he asked me this than I noticed a predatory smirk settling across his lips. It was pretty clear that I didn't actually need to reply; I could see that he’d already made up his mind about Brazilian women and was merely affirming his opinion of them in my presence.
"Hiya, I'm Sandra and this is my sister Tina....we're just your normal, regular girls next door
in Brazil! Honest!"

So I humoured him and asked what he thought they ALL looked like, and this is when he predictably began to describe sun kissed, curvy women on the beaches and almost naked women dancing on top of carnival floats. I mean, OF COURSE HE DID! Every year these images make their way onto internet pages and in newspapers around the world during carnival time, perpetuating the idea that woman in Brazil are exotic goddesses.

And it's for this reason I'm writing this blog. Because do you know what? I’d say that yes, there are a lot of beautiful women here; probably more so than in any of the other countries I've been to. But are they ALL beautiful? CHRIST NO! Those beautiful women pictured on the beaches in Rio I've mentioned definitely aren't the only type of woman here. For every scantily clad carnival queen whose picture you'll see in newspapers, there are so many who escape the photographer’s lens….including the forgotten Brazilians. The mingers!

"Hiya boys, I'm Gizelle and I'm Brazilian....I'm free for drinks on Friday!"
A few weeks ago I was at a free 24 hour event in Sao Paulo called Virada Cultura, which showcases some of the best of Brazilian culture and music on various stages in the centre of Sao Paulo.

“Andrew” said one of the friends I went down there with, “I've never seen such an ugly gathering of people in my life. It’s like being in a DVD extra from Lord Of The Rings, where the camera crew give you a behind the scenes look at the characters grabbing something to eat between filming!”

I remember laughing at this rather harsh comment, because there was actually an element of truth to it. The people there weren't all ugly of course, but well….a lot were. Just like in Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, as the cloak of darkness fell on the city centre around midnight, these aesthetically challenged Brazilians seemed to come from nowhere! I should point out that this area isn't one cornered off especially for its ugly residents, but it's an area renowned for both its crack addicts and poverty.

Which led me to wonder if there much of a link between poverty and beauty for Brazilians here. Well, a few weeks ago one of my students gave me some insight into his views on this.

“Andrew, there is no such thing as ugly women here” he remarked, with a deliberate theatrical pause.

“Just poor ones!”

He laughed for an unnecessarily long period of time afterwards, signaling that this comment was indeed meant to be taken as a joke. However it was actually not the first time I'd heard something said like this. I was talking to one of my friends about Virada Cultural recently, and they told me that they’d never go there. “I’d much rather pay to go somewhere to feel safe, and be around beautiful people, than go somewhere free with poor, ugly people who want to rob you”. 

For many of the Brazilians I've talked to about this, there definitely seems to be a strong link between wealth and beauty. 

So what was my student getting at when he cracked this joke? Well money not only buys decent clothes, haircuts and dental work (as in all countries)…but it also gives you access to cosmetic surgery. And with the exception of America, Brazil is currently the world's biggest consumer of it.

Cosmetic Surgery

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but over here a large number of those eyes seem to have a clear vision of what procedure they'd like when going under the knife. And right now I'll touch upon those having surgical procedures on their faces.

Dilma, the president of the country and someone Forbes magazine considers to be the second most powerful women in the world right now is a prime example of having utilised on this type of surgery. Being fully aware of the importance of her looks to help her appeal to Brazilian voters, she's noticeably had quite a bit of it done (the before shots are pretty interesting)...and the work shes had done is so obvious, that you can't help but feel at the time she wasn't all that bothered about who knew about it.

And here in Brazil this attitude is not so unusual.

I remember waiting for one of my students to arrive for class last year. As the door was eventually pushed open my student appeared in the doorway with two black eyes and a nose wrapped in bandages. To say that she looked like she’d had a rough day would be a bit of an understatement!

“Are you ok?" I enquired, sounding suitably concerned.

“Yes” she responded proudly and slightly flippantly. 

“I’m just recovering from surgery on my nose”. Far from being embarrassed about having the operation in the first place, she seemed to revel in the attention it brought her from the other students. A few weeks later those bandages were taken off, the swelling around the eyes had gone down and that old witches’ nose was now a much more petite one, which seemed to do wonders for her self confidence.

I've been told that there isn't much of a stigma about going under the surgeon’s knife in Brazil, because it’s a bit of a status thing, “well if you can afford it, why would you keep it a secret?” one of my friends asked me when discussing the subject. “But then again, nowadays everyone seems to be having it, and you can even get it done for free in some clinics, so it’s really not a big deal anymore”. In the UK people are much more discrete about anything they have done, as if admitting to a surgeon tampering with their looks in their quest for beauty somehow makes them less of a woman. Well, the opposite seems to be true here.

And this feels like an appropriate place to wrap this post up. So, when it comes to surgery, there isn't nearly as much of a stigma behind having it here as there is in the UK, and no....not ALL Brazilian women are stunning. I feel like I’m crossing a line by saying this with the reputation Brazilian women have internationally, but then Brazil is a country after all....and not a nationwide roll out of the Playboy mansion!
"Get me some Brazilians for the picture, any will do" said Hugh Hefner.....never!