Contestants parade in swimsuits past a panel of judges. They're not quite Miss Universe material — there's the facial hair, for starters...
CARACAS, Venezuela — Contestants parade in swimsuits past a panel of judges. They’re not quite Miss Universe material — there’s the facial hair, for starters.
Venezuelan men are getting in on the country’s powerhouse reputation in beauty contests. The nation’s women have won crowns in four Miss Universe and five Miss World pageants, but the men appear to be catching up, putting the country at the vanguard of male modeling.
Male pageants are a growing phenomenon worldwide, and other countries that have fared well include Germany, India, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Brazil.
Since 1998, Venezuela has won a handful of titles in contests like Mr. International, Manhunt International and Mr. Intercontinental. Instead of pumping their biceps for Iron Man-style competitions, Venezuelans who compete in the contests tend to be less musclebound, in good shape, with attractive faces.
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“Venezuela is becoming a force in male contests,” said Alberto Mareiro, president of the Mr. Handsome contest in Venezuela.
In a Caracas ballroom recently, contestants competed in swimsuits and formal suits. The winner, Javier Delgado, went on to compete in Mr. International in Singapore, where he placed second.
“There used to be a very strong machismo mentality, which did not accept men competing in beauty contests,” Mareiro said, adding that in recent years, society has been increasingly accepting.
During tryouts for the Elite Model Venezuela pageant, men in their late teens and early 20s entered in swim trunks and were measured, weighed and asked to walk. Judges explained what changes the contestants would need to make before the next casting: Some needed to lose or gain weight, and most needed to go the gym to beef up their chests. All were told not to cut their hair.
Training for male models has taken off as well at Caracas’ Garbo & Class modeling school. The school’s founder, Alba Achique, once dedicated her classes solely to converting little girls into beauty queens, but today there are plenty of male students, too.
The growing attention to male beauty extends to nonmodels as well, and appears to be a growing industry in the South American country.
Julia Gonzalez, for one, has opened a chain of spas called “Only For Men,” inspired by her husband’s complaints that he had to go to more than one place to get his feet, nails and hair done.
The spa offers haircuts, facials, waxing and anti-stress massages. Gonzalez and her partners have opened four spas in Caracas since the first debuted in 2002.
Plastic surgery for men also has become more common, with men seeking everything from nose jobs to liposuction.
Isaias Bello, a plastic surgeon, said he has seen significant increases in the numbers of male patients since he began his practice 11 years ago.
“Men also worry about their appearance,” Bello said, adding that the obsession with looks “no longer has a gender.”