One of the things that satisfies me the most is to see people developing themselves. When we decided to create ‘The Female Gaze’ it was to give women the platform to share their stories in their own voices. We wanted to invert the idea of the ‘male gaze’ which is often voyeuristic and doesn’t give women agency. In comparison, the female gaze is all about women living their everyday lives with everyday struggles and accomplishments. With that in mind I chose to interview Bruna, whom I have known for two years. In those two years I have seen significant change in her. Last year I saw a more confident and stronger Bruna who, alongside Daniela Brousse, spoke at the last Brazilian activist event ‘Encrespa Geral’ in a very open manner about her experiences as a black woman and the invisibility of her skin colour in the makeup industry. She did not stop there. Last month Bruna spoke at an event called “Being A Woman” where she, for the first time, shared these experiences in English. In this interview we discussed a bit of her background and her personal experiences with racism and as a migrant.
Bruna was born in Salvador, Bahia in Brazil. When asked about her passions, she said “I love books, literature in general, it doesn’t matter if it is a book from an amateur author or Bukowski.” Along with her love of literature, Bruna is also a linguistics graduate and a writer, and has a deep passion for the spiritual. Bruna has been working with children since she was fifteen years old and she is very passionate about and inspired by it. She is currently studying Early Childhood Education with Special Needs Awareness and Dyslexia Therapy and Business.
How do you think your experience as an immigrant has shaped you?
It helped me to grow a lot as a person but also, to see the world in a different but still positive way. I’ve always been a happy and friendly person. Thinking back to 10 years ago I would say I was so hopeful that I would be daydreaming most of the time. I come from a big family and I had the naïve idea that everyone was as lucky as I was to have such a strong background and support. After living abroad for so long, I believe I had the chance to sympathize more with people. Mainly, those like me that have faced many types of prejudice and I’ve learned how hard it can be to keep yourself faithful to the things you have learned while growing up. Like everything, there were hard times – a lot of them – but I would not change anything because, thankfully, I was wise enough to take advantage of them and use that as a motivation for my growth.
Have you ever faced any obstacles because of your race/gender identity?
In Brazil, we have a popular saying: “You have to fight harder when you are a woman, black and poor.’’ I have faced many obstacles in Brazil, US and Ireland but thankfully I was always able to come out of those situations stronger than I ever was before and with much more confidence than I thought I would have.
What was it like growing up in Brazil?
It was amazing. My parents were and are still the best teachers I could have. They showed me love and compassion. They were fun in their own way and always believed that children should play according with their age, so they always made sure that my brother and I could experience all the freedom and carefree years that they had whilst growing up. Luckily, they could not only share with us their adventures growing up, but also encouraged us to be just children and appreciate everything that we experienced.
When did you become conscious of racism and sexism?
I had my first experience really young. I was in my third class, in a small school and could not understand why this boy, who I prefer to call “T’’, was always calling me bad names regarding my skin colour. Until this day, I still remember his name, the fact that he was doing the same class for the third time and his face: brown eyes, big lips, big nose and kinky hair, but his skin was white. I would get upset and complain to my teacher and the other adults in the school. They tried to convince me that he was just being a boy or maybe had a crush on me. I on the other hand would not really understand what was really happening. Nothing really changed until I brought the situation home and talked with my parents about it. I remember my dad putting us face to face and explaining to the boy why he should never call me out of my name again and then talking with the adults at the school as well. ‘’T’’ left me alone, he would not even look at my direction anymore and I changed school the next year.
Then I got a bit older and a lot more hurt and able to understand the reasons why I was called names. Unfortunately, this time the hate came from not 1 but 2 boys. I still remember their names and face as well. They were way older than me and from a different class. I’ll call them ‘’T’’ and ‘’S’’. What always got my attention is that people around us would try to make things less serious than they were by saying that
they were just boys being boys and I should not mind their actions. It came to a point where I would refuse to go to school because I knew that my ‘’friends’’ would not stand up for me and I would have to face them and their hate for hours until the end of the day. Again, my dad had to come to my defense and explain to them that they would face serious consequences if they didn’t leave me alone.
Last October, after having a friend reading a poem using my situation as an example for the racial hate in Brazil, I realised I still haven’t healed from these experiences.
Was there a moment when you felt “I had enough”? What happened?
Yes, by the end of the fourth year I was done with it all. I started to wonder why it was ok for them to behave that way towards me and why I should be the one thinking of their feelings and trying to understand that they were just misunderstood boys going through life. Right then I started to question how society treats sexism and racism. I saw my dad treating my mom with so much love and respect, teaching it to my brother as well. So, why was ok for those boys to mistreat me? Why did I have to be so understanding? Why should I care for their ‘’issues’’ behind this behaviour, when I was the one being hurt?
From my own experience I found moving abroad quite intense in both positive and negative ways. What was it like for you? How was your first time moving abroad? And what was it like to move to Ireland?
My first experience was overwhelming, I was 21 years old and it was my first time leaving home. I had never spent more than a few weeks away from home and within the same State, so I was completely outside of my comfort zone. At the same time, I felt like I was ready to face everything. I remember as if it was today. One week after I was in New York I called home wondering if I had made the right decision. I had just moved to North Carolina with an amazing host family and seeing how close they were made me homesick. I was 5 minutes on the phone with them but my parents and my brother reminded me of how strong I was and how proud they were that I had made that far. I go back to that Sunday every time I get homesick. Moving to Ireland was not as hard. After all, I had all the experience of living abroad for 5 years and I was somehow prepared to be an immigrant again after 8 months home in Brazil.
What are the main differences, in your experience, between Brazil, the USA and Ireland?
I would say there are not many cultural differences. Maybe because Brazil is a huge mixing pot of cultures and we always recognise certain costumes once we visit a different country. The biggest difference I have easily spotted anywhere I go is how us Brazilians have a friendly and natural openness towards others. Even though I ‘ve met amazing people everywhere where I’ve been I still miss the Brazilian approach, the care we have towards people we don’t even know.
Could you share with us a lesson you have learned or are still learning?
I have two quotes that I have as my motto and still learning from it:
- ‘’Crede Habere, et habes’’ Translating from Latin means ‘’Believe you have and it is yours (or you have it).’’ I have it tattooed on my body as a daily reminder that I can have anything I wish, using the power of attraction and faith that I deserve it.
- ‘’ It is not selfish, it is self love’’ I came across this quote at the same time I started my inner/spiritual journey and I truly love it. I can’t be myself, help others and expect love from the world if I don’t take good care of myself, listen carefully to my needs and wishes. I can say the background I have at home helped me a lot to make this one of my mantras, because of how much love we have at home, and how much they support my craziest ideas and dreams. I once thought I was being selfish living abroad and chasing my dreams, when my family was at home, but they always remind me that I’m doing this for my happiness and they are happy when or where I am happy.
Thank you, Bruna, for sharing a little bit of your journey with us!