Beauty Factory

Patrick Meinhardt


This project explores Venezuela´s obsession with beauty and modeling, pushing young girls into a very competitive industry.

Mainly known because of its natural wonders, its president Hugo Chavez and its crime rates, Venezuela is a country where beauty is taken to the next level. Miss Venezuela transcends any other national beauty contest and over the decades it has become a trademark for this country, transforming its TV show into a national pride seen by millions of people. Families gather in front of the screen to watch the most seen program of the year. In a country where people have found in satellite TV a way to avoid state-controlled media, this beauty pageants had this year a 66% audience share. The next day the new queen is all over the newspapers and the result creates a debate worthy of a presidential campaign.

Venezuelans elect their queen which symbolizes more than a woman. She becomes an icon, a symbolof beauty and nationhood. In a country where there is a breach among classes and blood is part of the daily life, this “goddess” is often the only common ground where this society can stand. Venezuela holds the record for the most “Miss Universe” titles in the world and is Guinness World Record holders for having won in two consecutive years (2008, 2009). However Venezuelans do not choose the most natural girl. They are a paradise for plastic surgery in terms of price and quality. 35.000 to 40.000 breast enlargements take place every year and Miss Venezuela contestants are no exception. Advertisement can befound everywhere, acting as a reminder that you can always look better. Women are aware of the influence of commercial media but that does not diminish a perpetual competition of the prettiest. The definition of beauty gets lost between scalpel and silicone and perfection is the ultimate goal.

These beauty queens have set a standard that many young girls hope to achieve one day. Modeling school becomes another extracurricular activity just like ballet or theatre,making experience crucial to have success in this business. Five year old girls learn how to walk with heeled shoes; basic modeling movements and photo-shoot skills so that when they reach fifteen they are ready for the big catwalks. Plastic surgery ads are everywhere, reaching to younger audiences. Teenagers want to become women and sexualisation becomes a powerful tool in the educational process that has made this country a reference in this business. This mix of silicone, beauty queens, teenagers, hard work and sexuality make Venezuela unique. A machine where the search for excellence transcend the mundane and sometimes becomes the raison d’être.

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  • 35,000 to 40,000 breast enlargement procedures are performed each year. Advertising, and the fact that they’re known as the country that manufactures Miss Universes, create social pressure among women to seek physical perfection.

  • Rodrigo Garcia, director of "Girls Model Venezuela", monitors a new student while a girl practices in the back. Modelling academies are one of the main extracurricular activities in Venezuela, with more than 60 centres just in Caracas.

  • Girls performing at the “interacademias” event which reunites each year some of the best modelling schools in Venezuela.

  • Girls practising for the "Miss Girl Venezuela" contest. Venezuela has hundreds of beauty contest that can take place anywhere: neighbourhoods; schools; malls and even prisons.

  • Miss Venezuela candidate’s from Giselle Reyes academy. Each year this academy prepares the aspirants to the crown who will become a reference for younger generations.

  • Besides catwalk and photo shoot lessons, students have to learn other skills such as make up, diction, oratory or protocol. Venezuelan women are very sophisticated consumers of cosmetics and fashion, spending more on cosmetics that any other Latin American country.

  • Modeling events are a key element in the preparation of these young girls. The empowerment of Miss Venezuela and the success that comes with it make girls pursue their dreams at an early age.

  • According to the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, 21.629 people were killed in 2012 in Venezuela, 122 for every 100 inhabitants just in Caracas. Modeling offers an chance to leave one of most dangerous countries in the world where unemployment and a strict currency control make it difficult to look for opportunities abroad.

  • Weight and diet become an important element. Teenagers are encouraged to follow specific diets to achieve the physical standard require by Miss Venezuela and other beauty pageants. Wendy Guillén, nutritionist, assess a student.

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