Defining a "national type:" Brazilian beauty contests in the 1920s

How to Cite

Besse, S. (2005). Defining a "national type:" Brazilian beauty contests in the 1920s. Estudios Interdisciplinarios De América Latina Y El Caribe, 16(1). Retrieved from


Around the same time Brazilian intellectuals, journalists and politicians "discovered" samba, they invented the national beauty contest. The first national beauty contest was launched in September, 1921, in commemoration of the centenary of Brazilian independence (and just three weeks after the first "Miss America" contest was held in Atlantic City). The second, held in 1929, crowned a "Miss Brasil" to represent the country in the "Miss Universe" contest in Galveston, Texas. By the 1930s, beauty queens and samba queens had become key symbols of Brazilian national identity, thanks to highly self-conscious intellectual rationalization and commercial promotion as well as exuberant popular endorsement. Both beauty pageants and samba dancing at carnival involved mass public participation in spectacles that provided common points of reference for a national debate over Brazil's racial identity, its ideals of gender and its relationship to modernity. The beauty of Brazil's women, like the samba dancing of Afro-Brazilians, was recruited in the service of nation building.

Copyright © 2012-2013 Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe.
ISSN 0792-7061
Editores:  Ori Preuss; Nahuel Ribke
Instituto Sverdlin de Historia y Cultura de América Latina, Escuela de Historia
Universidad de Tel Aviv, Ramat Aviv,
P.O.B. 39040 (69978), Israel.
Correo electrónico:
Fax: 972-3-6406931