Thursday, 27 August 2009

Venezuela revels in beauty pageant success

As Venezuela celebrates yet another Miss Universe crown, girls as young as 5 study in local modeling schools hoping to become the country's next "queen".

PARADISE ISLAND, THE BAHAMAS (AUGUST 23, 2009) MISS UNIVERSE L.P., LLLP- Venezuela has a history of winning beauty pageants and on Sunday (August 23) yet another Venezuelan, Stefania Fernandez, was crowned Miss Universe - the second from the oil producing country to win the honor in as many years.
Only the United States has won more Miss Universe titles with 7 - but that could soon change if an army of aspiring beauty queens have their way in Venezuela.

Girls as young as five begin their quest in modeling schools like Gisselle's International Models in Caracas.

Here, catwalk instructor and the school's director, Gisselle Reyes, offers classes on the essentials of becoming a beauty queen; walking in high heels, voice usage, movement and poise, etiquette and interview techniques. This year's Miss Universe is a former student of Gisselle's.

"Girls as young as five go to modeling school. Their mothers say, 'I wasn't able to be a beauty queen, but I bring you my daughter so she can be a beauty queen'. And I tell them, 'Welcome'. I think it is something in the culture of Venezuelan women, I mean, they all want to be beauty queens but, unfortunately, they can't all be beauty queens, but they are pushed by their mothers, their fathers, their family, the whole world. 'When you grow up you're going to be a beauty queen.' This is how it is, like it is more important than being a doctor, a lawyer, or a dentist", explains Reyes.

Reyes' school is not the only to offer such classes to hopeful girls. There are thousands of modeling schools throughout Venezuela and there is no shortage of young girls ready to compete for a crown.

In Venezuela, the beauty queen production line does not stop at classes. Many aspiring beauty queens have resorted to numerous plastic surgery procedures in the hope of gaining an edge in the cut-throat world of beauty pageants.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez once condemned the fad for plastic surgery after it became the fashion to give breast augmentation surgery as a gift to girls on their 15th birthday - when many Latin American's celebrate a girl's coming-of-age.

But the classes are where it all begins and mother Adriana Hernandez said she saw nothing wrong in turning girls into beauty queens at the expense of other professions.

"When she gets home she tells me, 'Mama, today they taught me how to eat, how to use a napkin, how to walk'. You have to see how she carries herself now. These are just details but in a woman, when she is grown, she is going to be very elegant. I think she is in good hands."

Seventeen-year-old model, Lineth Avila said Venezuelans were proud of their unique success in the world of pageants.

"It's something special we have here, the women of Venezuela. It is the pleasure, the excitement, to fight everyday for what you want, for your dreams. All of this is representative of Venezuelan women", she added.

As the reigning Miss Universe Stefania Fernandez gets used to wearing her crown, thousands of Venezuelan girls are hoping to follow in her steps in the future.