(Creepy) Model Scouting in Rural Brazil
I came across this NY Times short doc from the summer which follows a young male model scout looking for new faces in rural south Brazil. There were lots of things that were interesting about it: getting a glimpse of what life is like in a part of the world I'll likely never see, observing who the scout chooses to single out as having potential, hearing what the girls have to say when they're approached, and wondering if any of the parents told this guy 'Get your damn hands off my daughter!' in Portuguese. At one point the scout is with a 16 year-old girl named Michele at her parents' farm, stroking her hair while looking at her adoringly. Being an optimist I thought 'Wow, her boyfriend really looks like the scout. Hmmm...he's even wearing the same shirt!' I preferred to believe that until I watched again and realised it was indeed the scout. He also strayed from professionalism when he stopped a 13 year-old girl in the street with her hoodie up, framing her small face which displayed a fresh hormonal breakout and metal dental braces, and told her, 'You are so cute' while appearing to stifle nervous giggles. He came off looking like your friend's creepy uncle. She told him she didn't like modelling but seemed to be nervously flattered by the attention, naturally.
Maybe it's a cultural thing where close physical promiximity and affection is more accepted in casual social situations. But I still think this guy's methods are inappropriate, especially in a situation where the young girl has no power over what happens once she agrees to leave her family behind and travel to the big city of São Paulo, where all of the new girls sleep in one room in bunkbeds. Gisele Bünchen was scouted in the same area at age 13, as was Alessandra Ambrosio, at age 11. Geez. Most of these girls are desperate to be like their hometown heroines while others, like Michele, are equally determined to give their parents a better life. She tears up just talking about it. Her mother says with an innocent laugh, 'I dream of flying on an airplane one day and maybe I will.'
Part of the scout's strategy for finding new faces - and he's just one of dozens working in the area - is to hang out at the local schools and inspect the young girls as they walk by, which he has permission from the female principal to do. She says 'The scouts have always been allowed to observe freely.' Where do I even start on that one...