Connect to share and comment

"Loin steaks" on the pageant stage

Video: Venezuela spends millions of hours and dollars grooming its candidates for beauty competitions.

CARACAS, Venezuela — He calls them "loin steaks," you might know them as beauty queens.

With that attitude, it's no surprise that Venezuela is fast becoming known for an export other than oil and socialism: female beauty.

The South American country spends millions of hours and dollars grooming its candidates for beauty competitions, and no event encapsulates Venezuelans' obsession with the female form more than the annual Miss Venezuela pageant.

Beauty pageants have survived under increasing pressure from activist groups that say they are demeaning to women. But in a macho society like Venezuela’s such arguments are often met with bafflement.

During a press conference last week, Joaquin Riviera, producer and choreographer of the event, described the girls paraded behind him as “lomitos” or “loin steaks.” He seemed perplexed when asked if he thought comparing girls to cuts of meat was demeaning. “What would you call them?” he said.

But whatever he calls them, it seems to be working. Venezuela has won more international beauty pageants than any other country: six Miss Universe titles, six Miss World and five Miss International. When Stefania Fernandez, a 19-year-old communications student from Merida, won the Miss Universe crown last month, succeeding her compatriot Dayana Mendoza, Venezuela became the first country in the competition’s history to win the title in two consecutive years. And this year's prime cuts will take the stage Thursday night in the most watched program of the year on Venezuelan TV to determine who will represent the country in upcoming international competitions.