The Miss Universe pageant may be over, but. in Venezuela the competition continues at a dangerous pace.
The country is known for winning the most amount of international beauty pageants. It’s also known for extreme pageant training practices that push would-be queens to their limits.
Girls as young as 12 go under the knife for butt lifts, nose jobs, and 16-year-olds get breast augmentation surgery, the Daily Mail reports, adding that some parents even inject their 8- or 9-year-old daughters with hormones to have them delay puberty and add inches.
Other horrifying tricks that are used to keep girls in the beauty pageant mold include sewing pieces of plastic mesh on their tongues to prevent them from eating solids, as evidenced in a recent BBC documentary, and locking their waists in plaster casts to shrink them.
Boot camps for hopeful contestants also abound. One such “Miss Factory” in Caracas, Belankaza, has about 600 girls in its class. Many of the students enrolled are from lower-income families, and the school fees and beauty procedures encouraged or required for would-be contestants are exorbitant. In these fiercely competitive environments, students spend all day and all night preparing to be pageant queens. Their bodies are inspected and their diets are dangerously controlled. “I haven’t had a drop of water today,” one aspiring contestant told the filmmakers behind the documentary Beauty Factory.
“It’s pretty difficult because you don’t only have the weight of an organization or your family, it’s the weight of a whole country,” Debora Menicucci, a former Miss Venezuela, told ELLE.com. “They expect you to do the maximum possible to bring the crown to the country again. And that’s not easy because Venezuela has already won many crowns at global beauty contests. . .You have to keep trying harder than the girl who came before.”
It’s gotten so bad that an organization called “No to Biopolymers, YES to life,” launched a campaign in middle schools in order to educate students about the dangers of extreme beauty. The organization is in memory of a 15-year-old named Mary Perdomo who died as the result of botched injections.
“Every girl here dreams of being a Miss. We Venezuelans see those people as the perfect women,” Maria Trinidad, a representative of the NO to Biopolymers foundation, told The Atlantic in 2013. “When you live in a country where a beautiful woman has greater career prospects than someone with a strong work ethic and first-class education, you are forced into the mindset that there is nothing more important than beauty.”