I don’t usually write reviews on programs or films but on this occasion I thought it necessary to make an exception. I’ve just finished watching the first episode of Billie JD Porter’s three-part journey across South America, unlocking the secrets and obsessions of the continent. Porter’s first installment examines what goes on behind the picture perfect, posing and pouting faces of the flawless beauty queens competing in the grueling marathon, that is - the Miss Venezuela beauty contest.
Venezuela is notorious for being home to some of the most beautiful women on the planet and the country has won more beauty contest titles in recent years than anywhere else. The entire country’s fixation with beauty has contributed to there being a sky high demand for cosmetic surgery. Whether a small blemish needs to be corrected or a more serious procedure like a boob or nose job, where there’s a will there’s a way and despite Venezuela being an extremely poverty stricken country people are willing to pay fortunes for cosmetic surgery.
One of the most astonishing procedures which Porter explores in the program, is the plastic mesh. Girls are willing to have a plastic mesh sewn onto their tongues, which in effect prevents them from being able to eat any solid food because it is too painful, as a result their diet consists purely of liquids which consequently allows them to lose a lot of weight in a short period of time. Punishing diets are the norm for a staggering number of girls across the country who are hoping to become beauty queens.
From a young age Venezuelan girls are taught what it takes to become a beauty queen, they learn how to apply make-up, how to walk on a catwalk and how to pose for the camera. It is drummed into young girls brains that if they want to succeed in the world of beauty pageants plastic surgery is inevitable. Porter spoke to a number of girls, who to me looked absolutely flawless but under the scrutinizing eye of Osmel Sousa – the 70 year old, hugely respected and renowned beauty guru, they were lead to believe that if they wanted to stand a chance in the competition they needed more plastic surgery. And I quote:
“If a girl needs a nose job, you get her one. It’s an industry so we strive for perfection. We can’t settle for mediocrity.”
More and more girls are going under the knife be it to remove their disgusting and more importantly non- existent cellulite, or to make their already fiddled with nose that little bit more symmetrical. The girls are brainwashed to believe that silicon boobs play an important part in winning the competition and girls from just the tender age of 18 are undergoing botox, because yep you guessed it they apparently have wrinkles?!
Feminists across the world are outraged by the whole concept of beauty pageants, the contestants are treated like cattle and if they aren’t good looking, they are worthless and simply do not stand a chance in the competition! Girls in Venezuela are dropping out of University and putting their education, and entire lives for that matter on hold; brains and beauty do not really collide when it comes to winning the lucrative title “Miss Venezuela”.
So why are these girls willing to go to such absurd measures, striving to achieve this untouchable idea of perfection which in reality does not really exist? Well, what many people are unaware of is the extent of the suffering which people must endure on a day to day basis in Venezuela. Porter explains how statistics show that every 40 minutes another person is murdered in the country. Entering beauty pageants represents much more than the mere title and reputation of being the most beautiful women in the country. “Miss Venezuela” represents a glimmer of hope for thousands of ordinary girls from poor backgrounds to forget all of their problems and to transform into rich and famous beauty queens in the world’s most extreme beauty contest.
Porter speaks closely with Meyer as she progresses to the final stages of the contest. Her brother and cousin were both shot dead in the barrio where she lives and she regards success in the competition as her only possible escape route from the slums. Meyer is determined to turn around her life for herself and for her family and she views Miss Venezuela as her chance to do so. Meyer explains how she wants to prove to the people from the barrio that there is hope for them yet and that anything is possible.
I found this program both moving and disturbing, although it featured some of the most stunningly beautiful women I have ever seen I do not envy their lives in the slightest. I think that anyone who underestimates the extensive hard work and enormous amount of pressure that girls are put under when competing in beauty pageants ought to watch this program. I hope it will open the ignorant eyes of those who believe girls only enter these competitions for shallow purposes, people must realise that there is a much darker and uglier truth behind Venezuela’s obsession with beauty.
To watch the documentary for yourself, click here! As always I would love to hear your views so please do not hesitate to share your thoughts upon the matter.