Venezuela has produced more winners of international beauty pageants than any other nation.
The tally so far: six Miss World, seven Miss Universe, six Miss International and two Miss Earth crowns.
Miss Debora Menicucci, 23, will try to make it seven Miss World titles when she competes in the finals in London tonight.
But behind the glitz and glamour, and the perfect body, lies stories of extreme ways to become beauty queens.
Girls as young as 12 are getting butt lifts and nose jobs under the watchful eye of their mothers, Mail Online reported. And girls as young as 16 undergo plastic surgery to remove parts of their intestines so food passes through their bodies without being digested.
Other slimming methods include sewing plastic mesh on their tongues to prevent them from eating solids, and wearing plaster casts that shrink their waists.
BREAST JOB AT 16
The shocking part is parents take the initiative in putting their children through these procedures - for fame and money, the report said.
They borrow to finance the girls' paths through beauty academies.
Desperate parents inject the girls, aged eight or nine, with hormones to halt the onset of puberty and cause them to grow taller.
One such academy is Belankazar, which has 600 girls aged five to 29. Among its former students is the current Miss Venezuela, 23-year-old Mariana Jimenez.
Belankazar director Alexander Velasquez said the average age for a girl to get breast implants is 16. He told Mail Online: "To be a beauty queen, the breasts can't be too large or too flat. Often, the surgery is just to change slightly the shape or the size."
But the craving for the perfect beauty comes at a price. Dozens of teenage girls die every year during cosmetic surgery.
Ms Maria Trinidad, from a group called NO to Biopolymers, YES to Life, said: "When you live in a country where a beautiful woman has greater career prospects than someone with a strong work ethic and first-class education, you are forced into the mindset that there is nothing more important than beauty."
This article was first published on Dec 14, 2014.
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