Among Latin nations, Venezuela is best known for two exports: crude oil and beauty queens. At home, the annual Miss Venezuela Pageant – typically scoring an 80% share for Venevision – is watched with a fervor that most Latin Americans save for the World Cup final.
Engineering the contest is Venezuela’s Osmel Sousa, who for 14 years has served as president of the Miss Venezuela Organization. While Sousa’s remarkable views on feminine beauty, the joys of cosmetic surgery and the “racial” characteristics that win pageants certainly won’t win any popularity contests among feminists and civil rights orgs, the “beauty czar” is unhindered by any deference to the concerns of those who don’t share an enthusiasm for his work.
“Venezuelan women have what it takes,” says Sousa. “And if they lack it, they know how to make it look as if they have it.”
With a little help from the beauty czar, of course. If a young Caracas woman is really serious about the pageant, she gets herself acquainted with the ocular scalpel of Osmel Sousa.
“I know what it takes to make a winner,” says the 40-something Sousa, who happily refers to the pageant as a beauty queen “factory.”
From breast implants to nose jobs, Sousa believes that surgery is a “polishing process” and a “logical progression beyond normal cosmetics” that will help candidates compete successfully.
A child immigrant from Cuba, Sousa made his name sketching female figures, first as a publicist, then as an art director.
“Through my sketches I made all the money that I could imagine,” says Sousa. “The drawings allowed me to develop not a clinical eye but a beauty pattern. Many times I was given a figure and asked to fix it.”
Sousa’s surgical acumen has been applied to the service of placing Venezuelan women in the winner’s circle of international pageants like the Miss South America, Miss World and Miss Universe, as well as lesser-known counterparts Miss Globe, Miss Hispanic and Miss Cinnamon Skin.
But Sousa remains a restless scientist. He says he has yet to find – or make – the perfect beauty queen, but will not cease toiling until he does so. “I am not satisfied with any of the beauty queens,” the czar declares imperially. “But by combining and picking features from each one of them, I’ve thought of making what I would consider the ideal pattern.” He says that, so far, this has never been done.
Sousa confesses that some things defy cosmetic surgery – which prompts him to add that black and Indian-featured contestants are seldom seen in the Miss Venezuela pageant, despite the large proportion of the country’s population that is black, native American and of mixed race.
Such features don’t fit in with show business beauty patterns, Sousa insists. “The day these patterns change, we’ll change.”
Proud that he once voted for a black contestant in the Miss Dominican Republic pageant, Sousa adamantly maintains he does not wish to sound racist: “This has nothing to do with feelings, or rights, or emotions. Only beauty.”