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An Afro-Brazilian Lawyer on Finding the Courage to Wear Her Natural Hair to Court

While producing our August global issue in Rio de Janeiro, we interviewed women who are celebrating the "Afro" in Afro-Brazilian. However, their hair journey has been a battle of personal, family and social acceptance because of Brazil’s complicated history with race and identity. Brazil enslaved an estimated four million Africans—four times the amount of Africans brought to the United States—and later instituted miscegenation to create a racial democracy. But for the first time in the country’s history, a 2010 census reported that 50.7% of Brazilians identified as Black or mixed race compared to 47.7% who say they are White. 

Unlike African-American women who have widely embraced wearing twist outs and textured 'fros, our South American sisters have slowly and surely found pride in not straightening their locks.

For attorney Marina Marçal, who’s been transitioning from chemical treatments to natural hair, has had clients question her work ethic when she wears her hair curly in court. But she’s not deterred of  showing her true self.  

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“I’m fighting for this because I want my one-year-old niece growing up making her own decisions – she can have straight hair and be fine, she can have curly hair and be fine,”says Marçal. “She has to feel proud of herself.”

In part one of ESSENCE.com’s three-part video series, Afro-Brazilian Hair Stories, we hear from three Brazilian women about their struggles going against the norm and finding joy in letting their hair be free.


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