When Nayara Justino was 6 years old, she’d watch Globo – Brazil’s biggest TV network – crown the Globeleza, their carnaval queen. Nayara admired and emulated these women, and even though they were always lighter-skinned than she is, she dreamt of becoming a carnaval queen too, according to The Guardian.
In 2013, Globo held its first competition to find its 2014 rainha, and Nayara didn’t let the public’s perception of beauty stop her. Globo called her and let her know that she had made the top 10. On TV, she showed off the samba moves she had been practicing since childhood, and talked about how much she wanted to win. “It would be an honor to represent the biggest street party in Brazil,” she said during the televised competition.
After a public vote, Nayara went on to become the queen, and as she danced on TV, her mother could hardly contain herself. In the first few weeks, she eased into her new role with plenty of photoshoots. But her victory was quickly soured after the competition aired – when people were able to see what the new Globaleza looked like.
“Lots of people going into my Facebook to insult me, calling me ‘monkey’ and ‘darkie,’” she said. “It was the racism that hurt me the most. The racism didn’t just come from white people, but from black people too.”
Following the comments, there were rumors that her crown was going to be taken away. Even though she had won by popular vote, people were attacking her. She said that one journalist who attacked her made her feel like her life was over, according to Extra.
Her significant other, Cairo Jardim, prohibited her from going online to read comments about herself. “Nayara has been discriminated against since she was a child, but now, it’s even worse,” he said. “She was crying a lot.”
Nayara’s was eventually replaced by Erika Moura – a lighter-skinned woman who was not chosen by popular vote. Globo never gave Nayara a reason. The company told The Guardian that it was not because of her skin color, but because her “artistic” skills were not a match for the Globaleza.
Since then, Nayara has bounced back. In April, she will be starring in Escrava Mãe, a novela retelling of Isaura’s mother. The character Isaura comes from the 1875 novel, A Escrava Isaura, and she has been the subject of two novelas.
But, it seems that she has lost some of the hopefulness she had in 2013. “Very few black women become queen of the drum section, because what sells is white women with straight hair, a good body, etc,” Nayara said. “That’s what brings in money for the samba schools. If you pick a black woman, it’s only going to attract attention.”
Watch The Guardian‘s short on her below: