Weight gain may cost Miss Venezuela her crown
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Weight gain may cost Miss Venezuela her crown

Venezuela’s reigning beauty queen may be in danger of losing her crown just before the global Miss Universe content — all because of some extra pounds.

The world of beauty pageants is a cutthroat one, and nowhere more so than Venezuela, which has an entire industry based around its legacy of dominating international beauty competitions. With seven champions, including the current Miss Universe, Gabriela Isler, Venezuela has won the contest more times than any other single country, so expectations are always high for the South American nation’s entrant.

The requirements for the title are so strict, though, and the attention on contestants so fierce, that the current Miss Venezuela finds herself in the middle of a tornado of criticism for gaining weight in the months prior to the all-important Miss Universe competition.

Migbelis Castellanos, who was crowned Miss Venezuela in the widely-viewed conclusion of the televised pageant in October 2013, has been busy with the usual royal activities in the interim months: making the talk show rounds, moonlighting as a host on popular celebrity gossip TV shows and even joining the Ice Bucket Challenge craze — all as she prepares to carry Venezuela’s high hopes to the Miss Universe competition.

However, critics say the 19-year-old, from the western state of Zulia, has gained up to 15 kilograms (33 pounds) since her coronation, potentially making her an unfit representative for Venezuela on the global stage.

In early August, TV host José Gregorio Ortiz was asked about Castellanos’ future as a television personality. He praised her improved comfort level in front of cameras but said “she has never been skinny and it’s difficult for her to lose weight,” suggesting that the teenager might need to resort to a surgical operation to ‘fix’ the perceived problem.

The battle heated up during the last week of August, when Castellanos reported to Miss Venezuela “czar” and longtime host Osmel Sousa for a mandatory ‘weigh-in.’ Sousa, the most powerful person (and personality) in Venezuela’s sprawling pageant industry, hosts the annual contest and is in charge of all things “Miss”-related, including preparing the queens for their international showcase.

When the scale showed that Castellanos had gained 15 kilos since the two saw each other in October, Sousa had harsh words for the teen, telling her, “If you want to compete in a show for fat girls, go ahead.”

Sousa then publicly called on Castellanos to go on a diet and lose weight in the next month. If the queen does not comply, local media report, she could be disqualified and replaced with another contestant who meets Sousa’s exacting standards.

Castellanos has yet to respond to the criticism, but it has opened an opportunity for Venezuelans to weigh in on what many see as a dangerous focus on appearance and promotion of dramatic weight loss in a country where beauty is both a commodity and an industry, and many girls grow up with dreams of becoming the next “Miss,” no matter what they need to do to win that crown.