A line-up of beautiful women strut down the catwalk in nothing more than a bikini and heels. One steps forward, flashes a dazzling smile and strikes a few poses. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a normal fashion show.
Except, that is, for the bandages covering the model’s nose job. Not to mention the fabric patch sewn on her competitor's tongue to suppress her appetite.
Welcome to the sinister world of beauty pageants… Venezuela-style.
Next week, British journalist Billie JD Porter goes behind-the-scenes as part of a BBC Three documentary, Extreme Beauty Queens. Girls are desperate to participate, but are first told what to “fix”... leading to them going under the knife for breast and nose jobs in a bid to earn a coveted place in the contest.
One of these girls is 18-year-old Meyer, whose family have invested all of their money into making her dreams come true. “I’ve had my boobs and my nose done,” she says, “We ran out of money before we fixed my teeth so we held a raffle.”
Billie also befriends 20-year-old Laura, who has given up university to compete. She reveals she's had Botox to lift her eyebrows but admits, “I don’t like it. They make me look evil”.
It's a worrying - not to mention disturbing - industry. So why do they do it? Two words: Osmel Sousa. Osmel is the president of the Miss Venezuela organisation and the shadowy figure behind ‘the beauty factory’ where the girls go to compete. For the last 30 years, he has run the pageant and tells the girls what surgery they need - and what diets to go on - in order to be 'beautiful'. It makes for disturbing viewing. When one girl faints, Osmel tells her, “If you faint like a beauty queen, get up like one.”
He says, “Nature hasn’t been kind to some women. 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.”
Secrets of South America: Extreme Beauty Queens airs on 3rd Feb, on BBC Three.
Words: Hanna Ibraheem