Saturday, November 15, 2008

Nip/Tucking Your Way to Beauty Queendom

Friend and colleague Art Caplan comments on the ethical issues surrounding Venezuelan beauty pageants on

"Eva Ekvall says she was 17, a little overweight and dreaming of winning enough to buy a car when she entered her first beauty contest. Plastic surgery was the last thing on the young Venezuelan's mind.

Then she met Osmel Sousa, the Pygmalion of her country's beauty industry. Three months later, weighing 10 kilograms (22 pounds) less, her nose reshaped, and with breast implants, Ekvall was crowned Miss Venezuela...

Cuban-born Sousa, 60, who has run the Miss Venezuela franchise since 1981, is responsible for most of the country's five Miss Universe, five Miss World and five Miss International titles. He openly encourages surgery.

``This isn't a nature contest,'' Sousa said in an interview as contestants in swimsuits and high heels practiced choreography for the 2008 Miss Venezuela pageant, which took place in Caracas on Sept. 10. ``It's a beauty contest, and science exists to help perfect beauty. There is nothing wrong with that.'...

Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics questions Sousa's endorsement of aesthetic surgery.

``No surgeon can say that giving breast implants to a 17-, 18-year-old for beauty reasons is ethical,'' Caplan said by phone from Philadelphia. ``It's terrible that these pageants are turning into plastic surgery competitions and are no longer about real beauty.''

Surgical enhancement is permitted and is common among contestants, said Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization, a joint venture between billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump and NBC Universal Inc...." [Full article can be accessed here.]

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