Venezuelan beauty queens: But at what cost?

Venezuela has turned out six Miss Worlds, seven Miss Universes, six Miss Internationals and two Miss Earths, and the nation is known across the globe as a place of beautiful women. But just how real is the beauty presented by Venezuela to the world–and how safe? According to a recent investigation into the country’s traditional beauty schools, the health and well-being of Venezuela’s girls may be in jeopardy. SEE ALSO: Butt implants: Risks and complications Beauty pageants and the modeling industry that accompanies them are big business in Venezuela, and the country takes great pride in its achievements on the world stage. What’s more, Venezuelan women themselves seem to be sold on the concept that physical appearance is everything. “Venezuelan women are vain, but also intelligent, spirited and strong – no one can beat us in a discussion,” wrote Khabira, author of the blog Surviving in the Land of the Misses. “We all have our charms and yet we insist on visiting an operating table to enhance our lips or reduce our waist. I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t gotten ‘a little fixing’.” Titina Penzini, author of fashion manual 100% Chic told The Guardian, “It is no secret that beauty is a value we will take to its maximum expression. You walk down any street of Caracas at 6am and women will be perfectly coiffured, manicured, pedicured and impeccably made up. People here, from all walks of life, will get into debt for a pair of stilettos or a boob job. Whatever it takes.” Caracas is where MailOnline recently went and visited one of the country’s well-known beauty schools to speak with instructors about the methods girls as young as 4 years are using to try and become the next big star. What reporters uncovered was that girls as young as 12 were receiving butt implants, at age 16 students were able to have abdominal surgery to shorter their intestines (to absorb fewer nutrients), and girls of all ages were allowed to sew mesh patches to their tongues so that eating solid food was horribly painful. “Going on a diet is expensive, so for many having the plastic fitted to their tongue is a cheaper way to lose weight,” Alexander Velasquez, Belankazar Academy director, told MailOnline. “Removing the lower intestine means that food exits the body faster. The girls who do this are the ones who aren’t disciplined enough to lose weight by willpower alone. It is an extreme measure, a last resort to make themselves thin. Sometimes it is the girls who choose to do these things, or sometimes it is the parents choice, and sometimes both the girls’ and the parents’ decision. “The parents always want everything fast,” he added. “My job is often to convince the parents to slow down, to wait a while until starting surgical procedures because when they are so young it’s not good for the girls’ development.” Those who were serious competitors received breast implants or reductions, dependent on the type of competition they wanted to compete in, and plastic casts were placed around students’ abdomens to compress organs and allow an hourglass figure. For many of the thousands of girls entering Venezuelan beauty schools each year, their parents have already been administering hormones to help encourage the appearance of feminine curves. “Every girl here dreams of being a “Miss”. We Venezuelans see those people as the perfect women,” said student Maria Trinidad to The Guardian reporters. “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.” Most of the girls in beauty school are from low income families, and the school is seen as their only option for a better future. Winning a pageant means winning a significant amount of money–more than the total of a few years’ salaries for most families. In addition to the money, girls are awarded scholarships, jewelry, and a lavish apartment to stay, depending on the pageant. Bruno Caldieron, owner of a handful of Venezuela’s pageant franchises, told MailOnline, “Every pageant has a slightly different ideal. For a girl who wins Miss Sport and wants to enter Miss Venezuela, for instance, she’ll have to lose at least six kilos. Then she might have to have more surgery so her nose or jaw looks aesthetic on her thinner face. Almost all Misses have had some kind of plastic surgery. Fifty per cent of them have false hair. It’s not cheating, it’s a winning mentality. And besides, it’s not wrong if there is no rule prohibiting it.” Though clearly considered normal in Venezuela, there is an ugly side to the beauty profession. Many beauty practices go unregulated in Latin America, and something seemingly simple–like butt injections–can result in death. In 2009, former-miss Argentina Solange Magnano passed away after free-form silicone was injected into her buttocks despite the fact such practice is not approved in any country. In 2013, The Atlantic reported 17 Venezuelan women died over a 12-month period as a result of silicone butt injections. “The injections take just 20 minutes, but they can never fully be taken out,” Jesús Pereira, the president of the Venezuelan Plastic Surgeons Association, told The Atlantic at the time. “100 percent of cases become complicated. It could take four days or it could take 20 years, but eventually the patient will become irreversibly sick.” SEE ALSO: Miss Bumbum runner up hospitalized in Brazil Unfortunately, beauty is a part of the culture in Venezuela, and as long as procedures remain inexpensive and readily available, most girls will take advantage of the opportunities. The only way to stop the trend, say experts, is to educate girls before they hit an age where it is considered acceptable to operate on them. “We are trying to educate Venezuelan girls about the dangers of these procedures before they are 12 years old,” said Astrid de la Rosa, a female advocate who experienced surgery complications herself. “We have to get to them early, as parents tend to offer these injections as 15th birthday presents”The post Venezuelan beauty queens: But at what cost? appeared first on Voxxi.

Venezuela prides itself on beauty queens, but at what cost to health? (Shutterstock)

Venezuela has turned out six Miss Worlds, seven Miss Universes, six Miss Internationals and two Miss Earths, and the nation is known across the globe as a place of beautiful women.

But just how real is the beauty presented by Venezuela to the world–and how safe? According to a recent investigation into the country’s traditional beauty schools, the health and well-being of Venezuela’s girls may be in jeopardy.

SEE ALSO: Butt implants: Risks and complications

Beauty pageants and the modeling industry that accompanies them are big business in Venezuela, and the country takes great pride in its achievements on the world stage. What’s more, Venezuelan women themselves seem to be sold on the concept that physical appearance is everything.

“Venezuelan women are vain, but also intelligent, spirited and strong – no one can beat us in a discussion,” wrote Khabira, author of the blog Surviving in the Land of the Misses. “We all have our charms and yet we insist on visiting an operating table to enhance our lips or reduce our waist. I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t gotten ‘a little fixing’.”

Titina Penzini, author of fashion manual 100% Chic told The Guardian, “It is no secret that beauty is a value we will take to its maximum expression. You walk down any street of Caracas at 6am and women will be perfectly coiffured, manicured, pedicured and impeccably made up. People here, from all walks of life, will get into debt for a pair of stilettos or a boob job. Whatever it takes.”

Caracas is where MailOnline recently went and visited one of the country’s well-known beauty schools to speak with instructors about the methods girls as young as 4 years are using to try and become the next big star. What reporters uncovered was that girls as young as 12 were receiving butt implants, at age 16 students were able to have abdominal surgery to shorter their intestines (to absorb fewer nutrients), and girls of all ages were allowed to sew mesh patches to their tongues so that eating solid food was horribly painful.

“Going on a diet is expensive, so for many having the plastic fitted to their tongue is a cheaper way to lose weight,” Alexander Velasquez, Belankazar Academy director, told MailOnline. “Removing the lower intestine means that food exits the body faster. The girls who do this are the ones who aren’t disciplined enough to lose weight by willpower alone. It is an extreme measure, a last resort to make themselves thin. Sometimes it is the girls who choose to do these things, or sometimes it is the parents choice, and sometimes both the girls’ and the parents’ decision.

“The parents always want everything fast,” he added. “My job is often to convince the parents to slow down, to wait a while until starting surgical procedures because when they are so young it’s not good for the girls’ development.”

Those who were serious competitors received breast implants or reductions, dependent on the type of competition they wanted to compete in, and plastic casts were placed around students’ abdomens to compress organs and allow an hourglass figure.

For many of the thousands of girls entering Venezuelan beauty schools each year, their parents have already been administering hormones to help encourage the appearance of feminine curves.

“Every girl here dreams of being a “Miss”. We Venezuelans see those people as the perfect women,” said student Maria Trinidad to The Guardian reporters. “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.”

Sad girl in a dress
Girls as young as age 4 are sent to Venezuelan beauty schools. (Shutterstock)

Most of the girls in beauty school are from low income families, and the school is seen as their only option for a better future. Winning a pageant means winning a significant amount of money–more than the total of a few years’ salaries for most families. In addition to the money, girls are awarded scholarships, jewelry, and a lavish apartment to stay, depending on the pageant.

Bruno Caldieron, owner of a handful of Venezuela’s pageant franchises, told MailOnline, “Every pageant has a slightly different ideal. For a girl who wins Miss Sport and wants to enter Miss Venezuela, for instance, she’ll have to lose at least six kilos. Then she might have to have more surgery so her nose or jaw looks aesthetic on her thinner face. Almost all Misses have had some kind of plastic surgery. Fifty per cent of them have false hair. It’s not cheating, it’s a winning mentality. And besides, it’s not wrong if there is no rule prohibiting it.”

Though clearly considered normal in Venezuela, there is an ugly side to the beauty profession. Many beauty practices go unregulated in Latin America, and something seemingly simple–like butt injections–can result in death. In 2009, former-miss Argentina Solange Magnano passed away after free-form silicone was injected into her buttocks despite the fact such practice is not approved in any country.

In 2013, The Atlantic reported 17 Venezuelan women died over a 12-month period as a result of silicone butt injections.

“The injections take just 20 minutes, but they can never fully be taken out,” Jesús Pereira, the president of the Venezuelan Plastic Surgeons Association, told The Atlantic at the time. “100 percent of cases become complicated. It could take four days or it could take 20 years, but eventually the patient will become irreversibly sick.”

SEE ALSO: Miss Bumbum runner up hospitalized in Brazil

Unfortunately, beauty is a part of the culture in Venezuela, and as long as procedures remain inexpensive and readily available, most girls will take advantage of the opportunities. The only way to stop the trend, say experts, is to educate girls before they hit an age where it is considered acceptable to operate on them.

“We are trying to educate Venezuelan girls about the dangers of these procedures before they are 12 years old,” said Astrid de la Rosa, a female advocate who experienced surgery complications herself. “We have to get to them early, as parents tend to offer these injections as 15th birthday presents”

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