A 19-year-old student has been crowned Miss Venezuela, becoming the first winner of the annual pageant since it opted not to publish contestants’ waist, hip and bust measurements.
Thalia Olvino prevailed in Caracas on Thursday after organisers — facing criticism for the contest’s primary focus on physical appearance — said they wanted to push back against stereotypes about what an ideal woman looks like.
“I did this with all my heart and total dedication,” Olvino said after the pageant — during which contestants paraded on stage in swimsuits nevertheless.
In the past presenters would tell the audience the exact size of each contestant, many of whom underwent cosmetic surgery and followed strict diets to achieve the supposedly ideal physique: a 90-centimetre bust, 60-centimetre waist and 90-centimetre hips.
But this year organisers tried to shift the focus, quizzing the contestants about their character.
“Determination”, “excellence” and “initiative,” marketing student Olvino replied when asked to highlight her main qualities.
In another round, fellow candidate Melissa Jimenez said that “Miss Venezuela has evolved and serves to empower women.”
“A woman can inspire others to follow their dreams,” she added.
Miss Venezuela, which has been running since 1952, is normally big business in the crisis-wracked Latin American country, but it is suffering from the same difficulties as the rest of the population.
One of those is frequent blackouts and a spokeswoman for the pageant last week revealed that the contest did not have enough money to put in place contingency measures in case of a power outage.
Several beauty queens sent messages of solidarity to the Venezuelan people.
“I wanted to share with you how much love and support I have for all of you in Venezuela right now who are going through a very difficult time,” former Miss Universe Natalie Glebova said.