Original Daily Mail article here. I had to post this, it was just so incredibly shocking.
How super-thin store mannequins with implant-shaped breasts are redefining Venezuela’s idea of a ‘normal’ body shape.
Super-thin Venezuelan mannequins with breast implant-shaped torsos are being blamed for the country’s growing body-image problems. The nation’s body ideal of a large chest, tiny waist, and long legs, is now being represented in retailers’ window displays around the country. Their shape reflects the one requested in plastic surgery offices across the country, many of which are frequented by women with low incomes who set aside daily necessities to save up for breast implant surgeries.
The trend represents a change from the catwalk model-shaped mannequins (like those common in the U.S.) that previously filled stores. Nereida Corro, the co-owner of a mannequin factory in Valencia told the New York Times: ‘The mannequins were natural just like the women were natural, [but now] the transformation has been both of the women and of the mannequin.’
In fact, mannequin factories in around the country were struggling to make ends meet until they decided to redesign the figures to reflect their native country’s voluptuous beauty standard, which women often earn through multiple plastic surgeries. Boutique owners who have begun using the mannequins have noticed a spike in sales. Yaritza Molina, a boutique owner in Coro says that she has ‘lots of clients that come here [to the store] and say “I want to look like that mannequin.’ She often tells them: ‘”OK, then get an operation.”’
The New York Times says that while there is no strong numerical information to demonstrate plastic surgery’s boundless popularity in Venezuela, the practice has become a definitive cultural norm–so much so that surgery has become a casual conversation topic among young women. Bodies that have been operated on are now considered ‘normal’ body shapes, rather than altered ones. Unaltered body types, they say, are considered sub-par as they do not express the country’s beauty ideal.
In a way, the new mannequin trend corroborates this ideal, by showing women how clothes are supposed to fit on their figures. Plastic surgeries’ prevalence has become so widespread in recent years that Venezuela’s longtime leader Hugo Chávez who died in March, once publicly spoke out against the practice. He felt it was ‘monstrous’ how women with low incomes were placing a greater priority on the pricey surgeries instead of daily expenses like food and proper shelter.
The Times reports that the average breast augmentation surgery in Venezuela costs around $6,350—approximately three months’ worth of living expenses. One of the more influential proponents of Venezuela’s naturally unattainable body ideal is the Miss Venezuela pageant. The competition is an immensely popular broadcast among women. Osmel Sousa, the pageant’s leader who has been responsible for producing many Miss Universe wins says that he considers a woman’s appearance somewhat malleable. ‘If it can be easily fixed with surgery, then why not do it?’ he said of small, common beauty ‘defects’, like an imperfect nose or smaller breasts. In fact, he feels that ‘inner beauty doesn’t exist. That’s something that unpretty women invented to justify themselves.’ His statements may sound drastic, but for women like Daniela Mieles, they feel very real.
Mieles’ family runs a tiny rooftop mannequin production company. In the last few years she has gradually helped steer the company’s products towards reflecting Venezuela’s changing body ideal. She says that Venezuela’s understanding of physical appearance entails a focus on overall perfection, rather than individual assets. ‘Beauty is perfection, to try to perfect yourself more and more every day,’ she said. In turn, Mieles has begun wishing for a body that reflects those of her family’s mannequins. She and her husband have begun to save money for her to get breast implant surgery. If they save enough, Mieles could one day resemble what Molina describes as a ‘princess.’ ‘These are the princesses,’ Molina told the New York Times of two mannequins placed side-by-side in her store. ‘Because they have the best bust.’
I find it incredibly sad that the unaltered and real body is considered sub-par in Venezuela…it seems to be a trend that is not far off from reaching the United States.