Just like any other form of art in the entertainment industry, modelling has become very lucrative in the 21st century.
Nonetheless, modeling competitions have over the years, usually been a breeding ground for the perpetuation of the Eurocentric concept of beauty; stick-thin women, pale skin and flowing straight hair.
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For some time now, the buzz around inclusion, diversity and political correctness in all facades of our dealings have led to open conversations on beauty standards and ideals of the socially constructed notion of physical attractiveness that all women should strive to achieve and maintain.
Ana Flávia Santos made history in Brazil in 2016 as the first black model to win Brazil’s Ford Models contest after the competition’s 43 years of existence.
She contested with 15 other candidates that were drafted from various regions of the country. Her win saw her getting a four-year contract with Ford Models in the amount of $150,000.
Brazil’s Super Model of The World competition is an annual event organised by Ford Models Brazil which was a steppingstone for notable world class models like Adriana Lima, Chanel Iman and Nicole Trunfio.
This internationally recognized competition was first held in 1980 by the co-founder of Ford models Eileen Ford and ever since the first one, different versions of the Super Model of The World competition have been staged around the world.
Santos, the daughter of an unemployed bricklayer and a general service assistant, was born and raised in Mussurunga, a town on the outskirts of Salvador in Brazil.
Like most graduates, she began searching for a job after school, but her experience portfolio failed her, so she resorted to seeking employment as a salesperson at the mall.
On one of her training days, a friend told her about a modelling contest, but she paid little attention to it.
However, her friend was insistent and submitted a picture she had on social media to a scout, Vinny Vasconcellus who reached out to her.
She, however, responded after a month. According to Vinny, “The picture on the internet was old, I couldn’t see it right. When she went to the agency and I saw her in person, I said, ‘That’s it!’
“It was a girl who thought she was ugly because she was tall and thin, and stayed home embarrassed. On the same day, I took a photo, presented it to an agency in São Paulo and started the preparation.”
Vinny’s team began preparing Ana for the modelling world but first she had to go through some lessons on aesthetics, psychological work and most importantly, catwalk lessons.
“It was a whole process that presented the leap for her, a crude stone, with not a notion of beauty. Then the thing flowed, and she started to have more self-esteem,” he said.
Before the Super Model of The World competition, Santos’ debut on a runway was at Afro Fashion Day (AFD) to celebrate the Day of Black Consciousness.
Bruno Vicente, a scout of Ford Brazil, spotted Santos on the local stage of the AFD contest.
“When they called my name at the final, I didn’t believe it. I stepped forward and did the only thing I could do; smile. I spent the night anesthetized.”
On winning the Super Model of The World competition at the time, the now 24-year- old model said, “It was wonderful… I’m opening doors for other Black girls. I received lots of messages telling me that I was being an inspiration.”
Currently, she has walked many runways and done editorials and commercials for big names like Lacoste, Chloé, Harper’s Bazaar Brazil, Zara and Dior.
Her favourite modelling experiences in recent times are the Dior Cruise show in Marrakech and a trip with Chloé to Shanghai.
When asked who she would really love to model for, Santos said: “I would love to star in a campaign for Fenty, Fenty Beauty or anything related to Rihanna.
“Would also be happy to do campaigns for other brands that I love like Chanel, Prada or Versace and walking for Off-White again.”