RIO DE JANEIRO – A beauty contest has become a tradition at a women’s prison in the Brazilian metropolis of Rio de Janeiro, where inmates for the past 12 years have competed for the title of Miss Talavera Bruce.
Located in the Bangu neighborhood on Rio de Janeiro’s west side, the penitentiary holds the event with the aim of rebuilding the prisoners’ self-esteem, Talavera Bruce director Janaina Fernandes told EFE.
Five months of preparations precede the big day, starting with the selection of pre-candidates.
“We first pass around a list to see who’s really interested in participating. Then we look to see if their behavior is good and make a selection” to narrow the candidates down to 10 finalists, Fernandes said.
Around 150 of the prison’s 450 inmates opted to participate in this year’s contest; a non-governmental organization and a Protestant church help organize the event, providing clothing, make-up artists and hair stylists for the last day.
On Thursday, the 10 finalists passed by several cells and heard numerous catcalls on their way to the patio, where one-by-one they paraded before a team of outside judges.
The second finalist won a hairdryer before the first finalist won an iron. Finally, 26-year-old Mayana Rosa was announced as the winner of the top prize of this year’s contest: an electric fan.
Mayana, sentenced to 45 years in prison for forming part of a gang of women who robbed cargo trucks, said she was happy to come out on top.
“I saw my family. I won the champion’s sash,” she said, adding that the fan is useful inside the prison because “it’s very hot and there are a lot of mosquitoes.”
Mayana’s mother, Valeria, was visibly thrilled at her daughter’s success, although she said she was not pleased that a news story with her photo would appear online.
Mayana, who hails from a Rio suburb and received training as a physiotherapist, said she knows she will nnot be released any time soon and has not ruled out participating in the contest again.
“If they have another one, I’ll probably participate. This time I gained five kilos (11 pounds) and I hope to lose that weight in time for next year,” she said. “Or to be blessed and not be here.”