Beauty-obsessed Venezuelans hunt for scarce makeup, implants

Fri Sep 26, 2014 1:24am EDT
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By Alexandra Ulmer

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's famed models and aspiring beauty queens are struggling to doll themselves up as shortages turn eye shadow and breast implants into coveted luxuries.

In a country that glorifies voluptuous women and opulent beauty pageants, even basics like deodorant are now at times tricky to find as strict currency controls have led to a scarcity of dollars for imported goods.

Determined models and pageant competitors are doing their utmost to keep the show on the road.

"I exhaust myself visiting pharmacies, I look everywhere for makeup," said Ileanne Davila, a 19 year-old civil engineering student and model.

"Once I couldn't find red eye shadow... so I used lipstick," she said as she took a break from a photo shoot. "I can't find powder for my skin color. So sometimes I mix two hues."

Her long dark hair straightened and her lips and eyes covered in black makeup for a rock n' roll inspired shoot, Davila said she aspires to break into commercials or television because, she explained with a sigh, she's not tall enough to compete in Miss Venezuela.

Davila is one of dozens of girls aged 3 and up who attend a modeling academy run by Gisselle Reyes, a former Miss Venezuela candidate who now prepares girls for the pageant, to learn how to strut down a runway and perfect pageant etiquette in the hopes of one day being crowned queen.

But even at this glamorous holdout in Caracas' affluent Altamira area, shortages are crimping plans to follow in Reyes' footsteps — sometimes quite literally.   Continued...

Jeweller George Wittels displays crowns designed by him and used in several Venezuelan beauty pageants at his store in Caracas September 13, 2014.  REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins