Maria Chantal is taking on one of the biggest issues facing society today: racism.

The artist has taken a personal front against Brazil’s race disparities. Brazil is widely diverse, but still struggles with racial equality like many other countries, despite its image to the rest of the world as a pillar of harmonious diversity.

However, Maria Chantal can tell you firsthand that’s not the truth.

About five years ago, Maria Chantal started wearing her hair natural instead of straightening it with harmful chemicals. There was a marked response to her change, and not in a good way. She became the subject of negative stereotypes due to her appearance; suddenly people were weary of her presence in places as innocuous as the city bus.

Experiences like this caused Maria Chantal to shift her already existing passion for art to focus on promoting Afro culture and black beauty.

No stranger to selling her art, Maria Chantal branched out on her own just a short year ago, after informally selling her crafts to her classmates in school and attempting to work together with friends to launch a brand.

Her positive message is simple: give people like her confidence to embrace their culture and provide the sense of identity young Afro-Brazilians are sorely lacking. It’s a tall order, but one Maria Chantal believes desperately needs to be addressed, and the public seems to agree.

She’s gained a strong and engaged following on social media, and her presence at fairs all around Rio have become informal platforms for other Afro-Brazilians to meet her and discuss their own stories with racism, social exclusion and discrimination.

As she enters her second year in business, her collaborations with two _SocialStarters programs has given her the tools she needs to expand and grow her one-woman business. Throughout her work with social enterprise consultants that culminates to more than three months, Maria Chantal has learned more about her target audience and recognized opportunities for greater growth in terms of new products and services, among other things.

The future looks bright for Maria Chantal, as she looks to bring new products to her webstore, begin formally leading practical workshops and participating in panels that will further the discussion of race in Brazil.

Her goals are not for the weak of heart, considering she’s promoting an idea in which the ultimate sign of success would be to say she’s put herself out of business. But as it is, Maria Chantal’s work is connecting a community of people to a new way of thinking about themselves and reaffirming their identity. She’s reminding everyone that “kinky hair doesn’t need to have perfect curls.”


Learn more about _SocialStarter’s impact in 2015 by visiting our celebration of 2015 online. Meet the Consultants and clients who made big changes in their communities and within themselves.

Interested in #joining us in either Brazil, India, Sri Lanka or the Phillippines in 2016?

Check our website out for all the details and dates of our various programmes and opportunities and apply for upcoming programmes here.