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Venezuela's 'Miss Factories' Set Insane Beauty Standards

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Amidst the socio-economic crisis, political warfare and violence plaguing Venezuela, there is one thing that never fails to capture the country’s attention: Miss World. The competition is both a curse and a blessing, giving young girls like Miss Venezuela 2014 Debora Menicucci the opportunity for a better life, but also subjecting contestants to a life-long struggle not only to look beautiful, but to win at it, too. 

Miss Venezuela is typically the girl to beat in the Miss World competition. The country has more titles than any other nation—six Miss World wins and 7 Miss Universe wins—and broadcasts to over 50 million people in Venezuela each year; so many people, in fact, that crime rates fall immensely while the event is taking place.

Miss Universe winners earn themselves some pretty perks. Winners are given a clothing allowance and Park Avenue penthouse. Those crowned Miss World have the opportunity to travel and do humanitarian work around the globe. A crown transforms them from beauty contestants to household names in their native countries. Although the esteem of becoming Miss World or Miss Universe is exciting, the price of getting there is steep.

Venezuelan girls as young as five years old are trained in schools known as “Miss Factories” to help them become Miss Universe contestants. It’s like an etiquette school for the future beauty queen. Girls are only eligible to compete for Miss Venezuela if they are under 110 pounds and 5’9”. As Menicucci told Elle.com, “All girls in Venezuela dream of being Miss Venezuela.”

Beauty Factory

The feverish desire to become Miss Venezuela can sometimes lead girls to drastic measures, like surgically removing organs that may make weight loss easier to come by, and getting silicone injections. Venezuelan girls, many of whom come from poor backgrounds, hope that a crown will grant them a new life. Young women are expected to do whatever it takes to bring their country home a win.

This year, Menicucci shocked the world when she was cut from the first round at Miss World—both she, and other contestants, were surprised to find that this year, Miss Venezuela didn't make the finals. We're hoping that this doesn't encourage the country to set even harsher standards on its upcoming beauty queens, but rather, shows that conforming to these expectations isn't all that it takes to win the coveted title.


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