Prison beauty pageants around the world
Perpetrators of ugly crimes can look angelic. So, packed prisons, everywhere from Peru to Siberia, have ample talent to tap for bizarre Club Fed beauty pageants. In the eyes of supporters, the pageants offer therapeutic relief from regimentation and, for an evening, let someone bathe in the limelight like the new Miss World, Gibraltar's Kaiane Aldorino.
Critics question the rehabilitative value. "Learning to pull off a chartreuse bikini and a [expletive] crown isn't in keeping" one Coilhouse.net reader commented last year. Still, the contests thrive. Aside from the uniformed guards at the doors and some entrants' scars and inky tattoos, the typical prison production could easily pass for a big-ticket effort. Miss Gibraltar, meet Miss Demeanour!
Colombia's largest women's prison, El Buen Pastor
(the Good Shepherd), stages an inmate pageant in honour of the Holy Virgin the inmates' patron must be a hard act for the lost sheep to follow. After the contest comes a masquerade party, during which cat burglars and armed robbers must feel in their element.
The whole event is broadcast across Colombia, for which beauty and competitive pageants are up there with soccer. Colombia's other obsession, which fuels crime and helps sustain the Good Shepherd's drug mule supply, is cocaine the country provides 90 percent of America's fix.
Kiss and make-up
Peru has a wealth of locked-up talent, swelled by the nation's status as the world's second largest cocaine producer after Colombia. Santa Monica
women's prison in the country's capital, Lima, holds a yearly Miss Spring contest, which strives to live up to its wholesome name.
Entrants must exhibit good conduct, attend therapy sessions, and join workshops in fabric painting, cosmetology, and escapology or not. Sex appeal counts, but comes second to personality bad news for gorgeous Peruvian psychopaths.
Sao Paulo, Brazil
In the prison pageant field, there is just no escaping South America. The region has a passion for parades of cute criminals. Yet another happens at the Women's Penitentiary in Sao Paulo
: the richest town of a nation renowned for bouncing beauty.
The Sao Paulo contest is called "Rewriting the Future" a nod to the chance of time off for good behaviour and reform. According to the prison authorities, the contest boosts inmates' self-esteem and nudges them into weighing their options once they finish their sentences. Floristry or robbery?
Amid Latin America's prison-pageant dominance, one brutally bleak Northern Hemisphere zone acts as the backdrop for a display of slammer glamour. Welcome to Siberia. Comely inmates trapped in the region's UF 91/9
prison may enter a contest that offers a chance to be good in public and earn early parole, which sounds reasonable.
But when the idea was floated at the dawn of the 1990s, the inmates were shocked. The prospect of a Miss Gulag contest seemed daft because clothing options were as thin as Siberian sunshine. Still, everyone adapted. In a show of conspicuous frugality, the eventual winner wove her dress from prison kitchen plastic bags. Now, to jazz things up, participants are allowed embargoed items like lipstick.
On the captive catwalk map, Africa is a blank space with the exception of Nairobi. The Kenyan capital's showpiece women's prison, Langata
, serves as the stage for a contest with the hallmarks of a true in-house job. Even the mistress of ceremonies at the 2005 Miss Langata contest had a history she was serving a nine-year term for trafficking heroin.
The year before, the inaugural winner Milka Wanja memorably voiced the urge to leave incarceration so she could compete against other beauty queens. Nice try! Wanja had to wait until the end of her 18-month term. Other Langata contestants will never emerge. According to the Dutch TV firm Metropolis, Miss Langata 2007 Pauline Amana was on a death sentence. Still, in October 2009, Amana appeared in a report run by Kenya's The Nation newspaper. Enduring beauty.
Take a sordid Lithuanian prison cinema. Build a stage equipped with soft lighting and glittery backdrops. Add Lithuania's most famous compere and you have the country's 2002 flirtation with big-house beauty. The pageant, called Miss Captivity
, was a one-off for Lithuanian reality TV itself a good idea for a documentary. Intense preparation went into the pageant, of which the roster spanned crimes up to and including murder.
Contenders had to chat with a psychologist and take a crash course in walking in high heels. Despite unease that the contest would exploit the country's most lowly for the sake of a few ratings points, the show proved a hit. "Two of every three television viewers sat glued to their sofas as a raven-haired 21-year-old named Kristina won a tiara that, one can be sure, not every beauty queen covets," the New York Times reported Encore.