Pageant powerhouse Venezuela to hold virtual beauty contest

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A beauty pageant contestant, wearing a protective face mask issued by the Miss Venezuela beauty pageant, watches as her hair is styled in a Venevision television station dressing room, in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. Quarantine rules and social distancing has forced the contestants to train at home and online with limited access to the venue itself where strict measures are in place. The pageant is due to take place on Sept. 24. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

CARACAS – For the first time in decades of Miss Venezuela competitions, the pageant powerhouse's so-called “most beautiful night” will not be live as organizers try to put on a compelling contest virtually amid a pandemic lockdown.

The storied beauty contest - Miss Venezuela has produced seven Miss Universe winners, six Miss Worlds and seven Miss Internationals - has endured corruption and sex scandals, as well as lawsuits, in recent years. But the novel coronavirus presents a challenge like no other, forcing the pageant to drop its musical productions and live audience yet still maintain the interest of its legion of loyal followers.

Each of the 22 competitors has been under strict confinement at home under quarantine requirements Venezuela imposed in mid-March, relying on distance learning through social media to master walking the runway, putting on makeup and performing, organizers say. The six-month training process to prepare the young women was done entirely online.

Organizers then recorded each participant individually, without protective facemasks, walking the runway and making other appearances on stage. The videos were edited to give viewers a sense that they all appeared together in a group.

The pre-recorded show will air Thursday night. The crowning of the new Miss Venezuela and the two finalists will take place the next day in another recorded program.

The event’s general manager, Nina Sicilia, dismisses the notion that prerecording the contestants separately will take away the event’s raw emotion. She said that during the show’s opening runway walk each of the candidates was brought to tears and had to touch up her makeup.

“Necessity sharpens ingenuity,” said Sicilia, who won Miss International in 1985. “We’ve had to reconfigure, adjust our resources, opportunities while always being conscious that this shouldn’t change our focus.”

The quarantine measures are aimed at avoiding infection for the 22 candidates, dozens of people who work around them and producers at the private channel Venevision. This is the 67th Miss Venezuela competition.