London-based photographer Regina Lemaire-Costa spent an afternoon with a group of Brazilian students, on an exchange program at Middlesex University to study medicine, engineering, and design. After the women got talking about how, as Brazilians, they were all having reductive, stereotyped experiences around their heritage, the afternoon turned into an impromptu film. And as Regina began filming them individually, she realized they all had tellingly similar stories.
"They were talking about their experience in the UK — and how they are seen as promiscuous, or exotic, and spicy — a stereotype of Latina women," she explains. "People tend to exotify Latina women as if we are just this one thing, but Latin America is a huge community that has so many different cultures and countries."
Regina herself was born in Brazil, but raised in France. Being Brazilian, she says, "I live it myself, too. Often when people find out I am Brazilian, I hear comments about my body that I wouldn't necessarily hear if they thought I was just French. 'That explains why you're so curvy,' and things like that. I want to explore more of my Brazilian identity in my work. Brazilian girls have a stereotyped reputation and it's often quite undermining and limited, so I wanted to give them a voice."
And it's clear that they need this voice. Asked how what the next generation of Brazilian women can do to combat these stereotypes, one of the women answers, "Deconstructing. So we can have the freedom to be whoever we choose to be."
From experiences of being sexualized, to discussing female role models, to hopes for the future, the film explores real identities of Brazilian women today. "I made this for International Women's Day but it matters every day to shed a light on the assumptions that people have about the Latin community." Watch the film below.
Text Lily Rose Thomas