Brazil’s 2017 Miss Bumbum contest was rife with intrigue even before any of the 27 women vying for the title stepped on the stage in Sao Paulo this week.
The annual contest settles the question of who has the platonic-ideal of posteriors in a country that’s a springboard for international models and leads the world in cosmetic buttocks lifts. Yet last month six contestants were accused of using computer programs to amass the needed votes to make it to the main event, Brazilian news outlets reported. Then another would-be Miss Bumbum had to submit to an X-ray to prove she was not sporting implants. And finally there was the organization’s decision this year to ban any bottoms bigger than 107 centimeters in diameter — about 42 inches — from the event.
But the gaudy, oversexed Miss Bumbum event tapped into national politics when Rosie Oliveira, the eventual winner, strode out onto the stage Monday night clutching a Brazilian flag.
Written across the standard in Portuguese was “Fora Temer” — “out with Temer,” according to the Buenos Aires Herald. The phrase has become a rallying cry across the country demanding the ouster of Michel Temer, the country’s current president who has been embroiled in an ongoing corruption scandal.
Earlier this year, some Bumbum contestants campaigned wearing shirts emblazoned with the slogan. “We are not just a beautiful butt,” they posted on Instagram. “We also talk about politics.”
Now at the contest’s end, Oliveira, a 28-year-old journalist and model from Amazonas, again pressed the political hot button. And with that, she turned what seemed like the most nonpolitical of platforms — a spangled sex appeal contest — into a sounding board for social change.
Although politics have made notable cameos on the American pageant circuit, in South America, where machismo and female objectification is deep-rooted and femicide rates are high, women have co-opted beauty events to send important political statements.
A similar situation played out last week in at the Miss Peru contest, another beauty event often criticized for its sexist and patriarchal concept. The pageant began in typical glitzy fashion. Contestants lined up on stage in gold sequined dresses, waiting for their turn at the microphone, vying for their chance to win the title.
The 23 contestants, hailing from different parts of the South American country, started the show with a roll call. The women would typically give their name, their home region of the country and their measurements: bust, waist and hip size.
But when the first contender stepped up to the microphone, her introduction surprised the audience.
“My name is Camila Canicoba Llaro,” the woman, of Lima, said. “My measurements are . . . 2,202 cases of femicide reported in the last nine years in my country.
One by one, the other women sounded off, listing statistics spotlighting violence against women in their country.
“My measurements are,” Luciana Fernandez said, “13,000 girls suffer from sexual abuse in our country.”
More than 25 percent of girls and teenagers are abused in their schools, said another. The country registered about 13,000 female victims of trafficking up until 2014, another contestant said.
A girl dies every 10 minutes because of sexual exploitation in Peru. About 65 percent of university women are assaulted by their partners, said Belgica Guerra.
“We don’t want a country with more violence,” the show’s host said. “Tonight is not just about these 23 women. Tonight is about all of the women of our country who have rights and deserve respect.”
The hashtag #MisMedidasSon — my measurements are — circulated on Twitter, with many commending the women.
Oliveira, the newly crowned Miss BumBum, clearly knew the notoriety and attention from the contest could be used for something more than magazine spreads and fame.
“I want to live to see political reform,” Oliveira wrote in her contestant page. “I have no children and the country we live in keeps me from that dream. I want to have children and for them to live in a better Brazil than we live in today.”
Following her victory, a drunken man at the contest groped Oliveira. She slapped him, then continued to give an interview. “What he did is machismo and that’s exactly what I want to fight,” she said. “Just because I’m Miss Bumbum doesn’t mean I can be disrespected.”
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