She is tall and thin. At 1.82 metres she is taller than most men. She has dark brown skin, high cheekbones, thick lips and big feet. You hardly see her smile because she has a space between her two front teeth. She looks like a work of art and moves with grace. The Brazilian press calls her look “exotic”.
The fashion industry in Brazil, as in North America and Europe, prefers women who are tall and thin with white skin, blue eyes and yellow hair. Rojane has the first two and makes up for the rest with her never-say-die spirit.
She has appeared on the runway in Rio, Sao Paulo, Paris and Singapore. She has been in magazines like Vogue Brasil, Vogue Teen, Cool, S/N, Curvas and Revista da Folha. She has modelled for Arezzo shoes. She would like to model for Victoria’s Secret.
Most fashion shows in Brazil have one black model in the summer. She is often that one black woman.
Black models in Brazil broke into advertising in the 1990s but they are still rare in the world of fashion. Elite has 300 models in Brazil: only ten are black. Rojane is one. Elite says there is not enough work for more black models – in a country that is only half white.
Rojane grew up in a poor part of Salvador in Bahia in the north-east. Her father was a school janitor, her mother a manicurist. They were poor: sometimes they had no dinner to eat.
She helped her mother do nails, saving her money and dreaming of one day becoming a model.
Her teachers told her she would never succeed as a model. She did not give up. She went to every modelling agency in the city. Every single one told her no. Still she did not give up. She signed up for modelling contests but was never picked. Still she did not give up.
One day she heard that Elite was holding a worldwide modelling contest. She signed up. She walked 2.5 kilometres to where the Salvador part of the contest was being held, but they told her the date had been changed. She walked there again and came in first!
So at 17 she got on the bus for Sao Paulo to take part in the nationwide contest. She came in second, enough to get her to the worldwide contest in Singapore. The judges said she was one of the top 15 models there. Elite signed her.
In Sao Paulo she caught the eye of Paulo Borges, the head of Sao Paulo Fashion Week, the biggest fashion show in the country. He liked her for her beauty and for her spirit: she knows what she wants and never gives up.