Brazilian ‘Wakanda’ Stylist, Jal Vieira, on Finding Her Voice: ‘I Thought I Was Shy, But I Was Silenced’

by Yah Yah
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Brazilian stylist Jal Vieira made headlines in some of the country’s most notable fashion magazines when Marvel invited her to create a collection inspired by the warriors of “Wakanda from the record-breaking movie “Black Panther.”

Vieira has faced several hurdles throughout her journey in the fashion world. She is not only a Black designer, but she is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Brazil has, at times, been labeled a “false paradise.” To the outside, it is a tropical haven, where its diverse populous live together in harmony. But in reality, even in 2021, the Black community rallies for even the most basic of rights. And colorism in the fashion industry— like much of the world, is rife.

When asked about her experience of moving through the industry as a Black lesbian, Vieira is candid about her observations.

“At the beginning of my career, I didn’t see situations of racism, mainly due to the fact of being a Black woman who is not dark-skinned. Fatphobia, yes. I am not a fat person, but I don’t fit the standards of thinness that are dictated. In fashion, they looked at me strange,” she tells journalist Marques Travae.

“Still, I had a hard time understanding, especially racial prejudice, because I also went through a whitening process. After all, all the people I dealt with were white,” she says.

Vieira graduated in Fashion Design at Belas Artes. She went on to receive a post-graduate qualification in Creative Modeling. Vieira worked as a junior stylist at Amapô Jeans for six years before setting up on her own. She is a member of the Célula Preta—a collective of Black stylists— all members of the Casa de Criadores line-up. The collective works tackle the racism present in the entire structure of the fashion industry.

Vieira is a fashion activist.

However, when she started in fashion as a teen, she wasn’t at first aware of the subtle ways she has been cultivated to not have a voice.

“The act of understanding myself as Black, in fact, is something very recent. But I experienced racism being followed around in the store, being treated differently at work,” she explained. “While the white person was left to greet artists, I was made to carry bags. I didn’t understand why I was going through this, really for so many years in the area. There was also a silencing due to the gender issue. I thought I was shy, but I was silenced. When I understood the real power of my voice, I turned the key.”

Vieira’s Marvel collection is an ode to the power of the Black woman.

“In the looks, I tried to materialize the ribbing as a way to symbolize the layers of those who came before us to get here. I also work only with synthetic material, nothing of animal origin,” she explains. “This time, it was a upholstery fabric, but I used tennis shoes, rubber …For this collection, of which I started to get my hands dirty in January, but I already had a ‘courtship’ with the brand a year ago, I focused on the print “Erva Coração”. In addition to empowering Pantera, she is cultivated by female figures. It symbolizes how the Black woman is extremely important both in the film and in our reality”.

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