When it comes to beauty pageants, you probably think of potential Miss Americas walking across a stage in some grand ballroom or huge Las Vegas theater. Well, get ready to have your mind blown, because the contests have become rather popular in a very unlikely setting: jail. Yup, prison beauty pageants have recently been held in Brazil, Russia, Colombia, and Lithuania.
To qualify for the competition, participants must be inmates in the jails, and many -- at least in the Recife, Brazil prison pageant making headlines -- are thieves, murderers, and drug-runners. But, no matter. They still dress up in sexy outfits, slip their feet into high heels, and pile on the makeup to be judged for beauty, general knowledge, and ... their good behavior record, of course.
In Siberia, the winner of Miss Spring was awarded early release if she won that contest. In Recife, 12 contestants vied for a first prize of $1,000 in cash to be deposited in their prison bank account.
Although it sounds like the tradition has been going on for a while, that doesn't make it any less wacky.
I'm sure there are a good deal of women in these jails who are innocent, and even for the ones who aren't, well, I guess this could be considered additional "recreational time," which every human being -- even murderers -- is entitled to. (Disagree? Even the scary guys who lived at Alcatraz had a recreation area.)
It just feels wrong. I mean, there's something disturbing about really young women being in jail for murder in the first place ... let alone to think of them vying to become "Miss Jail." I would worry that it almost glorifies their experience there, when what they should be focusing on is getting the hell out!
The winner of the Recife pageant is a 19-year-old convicted murderer and Katy Perry-lookalike named Rebecca Rhaysa Suelen Guedesin, who told British media:
It was a real thrill to be cheered by the inmates and the guards. Sadly the dress has to go now and it's back to prison routine. I have an appeal coming up soon. I never killed anyone so I hope to return to normal life one day soon. It's flattering that people think I am pretty ... I am just focused on getting out of here.
Good for her, and if anything, that's what these pageants should encourage -- more motivation for getting out of there! In Brazil, they're actually organized by Brazil's Ministry of Social Development and Human Rights as a way of reintegrating convicts with society. According to one official:
Prison life can be very grey and lacking any kind of excitement. This gives the women something to work for and puts something special onto their lives.
Something to work for, eh? Like being the prettiest drug trafficker or sexiest thief? I don't know. I truly believe these women deserve some joy in their lives, but I'm still not convinced that competing on the basis of good behavior and beauty is the best way to attain that.
What do you think -- is it a good idea for female prisoners to participate in beauty contests?
Image via Stas Kulesh/Flickr