Why are so many Latinos fascinated with beauty pageants?
Eva Ekvall, former Miss Venezuela, dead of breast cancer at 28
It made headlines all over the world in December, 2011: Former Miss Venezuela, Eva Ekvall, died of breast cancer at the age of 28. Unfathomable news for most, her death raised new awareness about the fragility of life, the importance of early cancer detection, and where beauty really lies.
Difficult questions to answer for Venezuela and for a region fascinated by beauty pageants and physical appearance.
"We invest a lot of money [in Venezuela] in looking beautiful and not enough in health care. There's a huge taboo around breast cancer. But in this country people get their boobs done every day, so I don't understand how breast cancer can be a problem when everybody's showing their breasts.", said Ekvall in her book "Out of Focus" which discussed her battle with cancer.
Along with discussing the details of her battle, Ekvall included very graphic images of herself as she went through her cancer treatment which shocked many readers.
"The pictures were very shocking because nobody had ever seen me that way. Nobody had seen me bald, without make up" Ekvall commented. "In the beginning I wasn't sure if I looked good or not. Then I realized that wasn't the point. I wasn't supposed to look good, I had cancer."
So many young women dream with becoming a beauty queen just like Eva. Ironically, it wasn't until she lost her hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes that she made the largest lasting impact in society as a whole.
Venezuela has produced more Miss Universe than any other country in the world. Eva was third runner up herself. In neighboring Colombia, there are about 400 beauty pageants held each year.
LatinZine contacted six former Miss Venezuela title holders by telephone and /or email. We wanted to obtain their perspective on why Latinos seem enthralled by beauty pageants and to know their opinion on beauty.
It is not just the Latin Culture that promotes a standard of beauty, as we can see in the Miss Universe and Ms.World competitions. As the mom of a young teen who has partcipated in the local Miss Outstanding Teen of America pageant, the teen part of the Miss America pageant, I have seen behind the curtains, and know that the fun and comadarie among the contestants is real- but after the crowning and the let down of not placing in the top five , many of these young teens are deeply concerned about their looks- to the point of wanting to have this or that changed by surgery. There is a lot of money won by the winners based on their looks. We need to once again focus on our young women and girls that their strength comes from the beauty of thier intellect and personality, that a perfect nose and the magic of Max Factor is not the complete package. Even a beauty can have insecurities because they are trying so hard to be a perfect for a standard that does not exist except in fairy tales. My daughter is a very pretty girl- inside and out- as are her friends- and I hope she remembers that even beautiful woman can be ugly in attitude and to remember that no matter how many crowns she may get, she needs to be aware of her actions. Mother Teresa probably would not have even got past round one in a beauty contest, but the beauty she left in this world cannot be measured.