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Camila Camilo tells us what it’s like to be a black model in Brazil

Camila Camilo got into modelling by accident when she was just 13. In a country which still has significant challenges for citizens of African decent, she has not let it hold her back at all. Now, this Brazilian model is travelling the world – working with a diverse range of talented designers. Africa Fashion wanted to know more about her inspirational life and journey.

When we asked Camila about her first modelling job, she told us, “It was for a motorcycle dealership. They wanted a calendar which included various ethnic groups”.

She was born and brought up in São Paulo, but now lives in the capital, Brasilia.

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“Modelling wasn’t something that I really wanted to do, but I ended up staying at the insistence of bookers and agents”, she told us. “A model’s life isn’t easy anyway and being black made it much harder!”.

“We are in the 21st century, yet racial prejudice still prevails across all branches of society in Brazil. The fashion world is not different”.

Where does she notice it most?

“Look at the advertising campaigns”, Camila explained. “Black models are in the minority, but most of the time there are no black models at all. And it’s not just the adverts. We have the same problem with the catwalk shows”.

“Black models are occasionally called for the spring/summer collections, but we don’t even get auditions for the autumn/winter collection shows. You’re left thinking, ‘Don’t WE get dressed in the winter?'”.

“That said, we are living in a better time than before. We’re making progress in baby steps”, said Camila. “We are facing the mirror without fear, with pride – exploring our black beauty and, at last, assuming our true identity”.

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Which work is she most proud of?   “Jobs where the colour of my skin wasn’t relevant”, she replies confidently.

So does Camila feel an affinity for any specific African countries?

“I’m not sure if affinity is the right word, however I am very curious to know more about Nigeria, Angola, South Africa and Guinea Bissau among others”.

So what has your experience of modelling in other countries been like?

“I spent two seasons in Europe in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey”, she told us. “My more recent trips have been for business reasons in Europe and Japan”.

We had to ask: What can you tell us about your day job as an oceanographer?

“Oceanography is the science of studying oceans comprehensively in relation to biotic and abiotic aspects; in another words it studies the impact of man’s actions in the environment”.

“Oceanography requires general and integrated knowledge of biology, physics, geology and mathematics as well as chemistry. The daily life of an oceanographer is diverse and could consist of research, teaching, consultant and various areas related to the environment in general”.

What is her specific role?

“Currently I help Industrial Fishing Planning at both an national and international level. Previous to this, I worked as a design technique performing collection, identification, sampling and application of molecular markers to evaluate the taxonomic status and population structure of fish fauna of southeastern and southern Brazil. It is a very multidisciplinary and dynamic profession that I truly love”.

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Camila is, clearly, not your average model. Her catwalk and oceanography work are equally inspiring. We asked if she had a message of hope for young models of African origin in Brazil.

“Do not give up on your dreams and goals – even if the paths in front of you are crooked – go ahead and have faith because the barriers are there to be overcome”

“Keep in mind that the only person who can stop you reaching your goal is you – sometimes because of fear, other times because we can’t visualise the obvious. Dream big, be bigger and above all be proud of your roots and ethnic groups”.

We thank Camila for taking the time to speak with us. What an inspiration!

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