Brazilian Favelas, ‘Top Model’ Style
Travel Blog • Eva Holland • 04.23.09 | 12:04 PM ET
It’s not often that my life as a travel media watcher and my life as an occasional (OK, OK—regular) viewer of “America’s Next Top Model” overlap. So imagine my surprise last night when this season’s crop of would-be models landed in a Sao Paulo favela for an “edgy” Carmen Miranda-inspired photo shoot. Needless to say, the segment didn’t have much in common with the tales of favela-based slum tourism that I’ve read in the past.
First off, the word “slum” was nowhere to be found. Host Tyra Banks described the favela as “kind of like the hood, kinda,” while Jay Manuel, the artistic director for the shoot, explained to the gals that “favelas are neighborhoods that were originally built by the poor.” Toss in an amazed reference from one young model about being moved by seeing “how these people live,” and another from one who was uncomfortable with the setting (“It’s not a good area, it’s kind of a poor area… I was like, are we in the right spot?”) and you have the sum total of the context provided.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that I expected a nuanced portrayal of favela life from the likes of “ANTM”—mostly, I was surprised to find them represented on the show at all. After years of semi-obscurity, and in the wake of the “Slumdog Millionaire” craze, is this yet another sign that slums—or at least, polished, colorful versions of them—and their accompanying slum tours have gone mainstream? And what, if anything, does that shift mean for their impoverished residents worldwide?
Here’s the “Top Model” take on Brazil’s favelas: