Miss Cell Block...Colombia's beauty obsession reaches even to prison (Pics)

Discussion in 'Off-topic Zone' started by WoodysGirl, Oct 11, 2007.

  1. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl U.N.I.T.Y Staff Member

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    Colombia's beauty obsession reaches even to prison
    Inmates take the spotlight at prison pageant

    Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle South America Bureau

    BOGOTA, Colombia — You could call her "Miss Death Squad."

    Jailed for supplying weapons to illegal right-wing paramilitary assassins, Angie Sanchez is now, in a manner of speaking, a queen of the convicts. The slim 21-year-old took top honors in an annual beauty pageant at the Good Shepherd women's prison here.

    A penitentiary may seem an odd place to display glitz and glamour, but the prison's warden puts on the beauty contest each year in an effort to boost the prisoners' morale and break the monotony of life behind bars.

    "This is a time when they don't have to think about being in jail and can focus on being beautiful women," said warden Jenny Morantes. The prison holds 1,166 women as well as a handful of toddlers, who are allowed to live with their mothers until age 3.

    Besides, comparing beauty is a national obsession in Colombia. The country comes to a near-standstill in November during the weeklong Miss Colombia pageant, while scores of smaller contests crown Miss Coffee and Miss Petroleum, to name just two.

    Breaking stereotypes
    Most budding beauty queens in Colombia are well-to-do teenagers with a coterie of advisers who prep for months by exercising, dieting, practicing on runways and contemplating cosmetic surgery.

    The prisoners, by contrast, are often women from poor or working-class families. Many are in their 20s or 30s. Most are married or divorced. Some have children. Nearly all are tough women doing hard time in the massive, concrete guardhouse.

    They eat greasy prison food and get little exercise, making it difficult to obtain or maintain stereotypical beauty queen figures. Some sport tattoos on their arms, legs and torsos.

    But as the prison beauty contest nears, they get professional help from hairstylists and manicurists, who volunteer their services.

    "These are people, just like everyone else," hairdresser Alfonso Llano said as he twisted braids and used a blow-dryer on one of the contestants. "Maybe they made mistakes, but they are here to pay for their crimes and to move on."

    Besides Sanchez, contenders in the recent contest included a mother of three sentenced to 14 months for stealing CDs, a woman convicted of forging documents, and a Spanish tourist imprisoned for trying to smuggle 9 pounds of cocaine to her homeland.

    "I needed the money," said Isabel Cavallos, a housewife from Valencia, Spain, who packed the white powder in her suitcase. "But they caught me at the airport."

    Sought money, excitement
    Sanchez, one of six children born into a family of poor farmers, dreamed of studying languages or working as a forensic anthropologist. But lacking the money for college, she ended up waiting tables at bars and restaurants for $70 a week.

    One night, Sanchez met a group of paramilitary militiamen who had fought Marxist guerrillas but later became heavily involved in death squads, extortion rackets and drug trafficking. Sanchez, who was obsessed with Tom Cruise and his Mission: Impossible films, was drawn to their seemingly exciting lifestyle.

    Soon, she was working for the gunmen. For double her waitress pay, she became a courier, dropping off weapons to paramilitaries.

    The gig ended when a fight broke out at a paramilitary party. Police arrived and found a pistol and a grenade. Sanchez and her colleagues were arrested, and she was sent to Good Shepherd prison on charges ranging from weapons possession to membership in an illegal armed group.

    "I never killed anyone," Sanchez said. "And I never thought I'd end up here."

    And now, the final question
    Despite her derring-do with the paramilitaries, Sanchez said she was nearly too nervous to take part in the beauty pageant. But she was nominated by her colleagues in Cell Block 2, so on the day of the contest she took a tranquilizer.

    Wearing a purple evening gown and strutting before hundreds of screaming inmates, Sanchez appeared to win over the audience with her charisma and her answer to a question posed by one of the judges: What does the word "liberty" mean to you?

    Speaking into a microphone, Sanchez replied: "It means that we can have new opportunities in life because we all make mistakes."

    When the judges announced the winner, Sanchez received a silver crown and a massive boombox. Then, her ecstatic friends from Cell Block 2 paraded Sanchez through the prison on their shoulders.

    A few days later, Sanchez reflected on her victory. It hadn't exactly changed her life — she's still behind bars awaiting trial — but she speculated that her crown could come in handy when she returns to court in November to appeal for her freedom.

    "Maybe it will help with the judge," she said.


    Angie Sanchez, the eventual winner, walks the stage during the prison beauty pageant in Bogota, Colombia.
    Scott Dalton: For the Chronicle​

    Inmates cheer as they watch the prison beauty pageant.
    Scott Dalton: For the Chronicle​

    Claudia Patricia Moncada, 29, the reigning prison beauty queen, serving time for money laundering and drug trafficking, is escorted by a guard to the beauty pageant.
    Scott Dalton: For the Chronicle

  2. jterrell

    jterrell Penguinite

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    wow, that is awesome in its hilarity.

    next thing you know we'll be showing it on pay per view and making the prisons some money.

    this chick will likely be offered lots of money now to pose for maxim or more seedy magazines upon release.
  3. Yeagermeister

    Yeagermeister Active Member

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    Jacs would hit it :D

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