Topless Models In Brazil Protest Racism In Fashion

By Candace Bryan

The last time we saw topless protesters at a fashion show, it wasn't exactly clear what they were protesting. But that wasn't the case at recent demonstration in Rio de Janeiro. Forty Afro-Brazilian models gathered on Thursday, during Rio's Fashion Week and toplessly expressed their anger at the lack of diversity on the Brazilian runways. They painted phrases such as “What strikes you, your racism or me?” on their bodies and tried to raise awareness of the discrimination they constantly meet.

Predominantly white catwalks are not news, but it's especially absurd in a country in which a huge percentage of the population is of African descent. Brazil is one the most diverse nations in the world, yet despite years of protesting, its fashion shows don't reflect that. Fortunately, though, (tiny) steps are being taken to change this. An agreement was recently made between activist group NGO Educafro and the organizers of Rio Fashion Week that a quota will be established that all designers in Rio must cast at least 10 percent non-white models in their shows.

Admittedly, this doesn't really seem substantial enough requirement, given that more than 50 percent of Brazilians are non-white, but it's progress. At least someone is working to fight the baffling fact that an industry making products literally everyone in the world can use is still insisting on being so exclusive and racist.