8090 - It's lonely at the top: Vanessa's story

In 2001 Vanessa Alexandra Mendoza Bustos won the title of "Miss Colombia" at the National Beauty Pageant in Cartagena. The significance of this event stems from the fact that she was the first dark skinned beauty queen that won this title. She became famous instantly. She became the host of her own TV show and even postal stamps with her portrait were printed, an honor hitherto unbeknownst to the winners of the national beauty contests. However, after a rather mediocre performance at Miss Universe her celebrity status began to decline steadily.

This paper analyzes on the one hand the events leading up to Vanessa's coronation and the subsequent media-hype about her, and on the other hand the impact Vanessa's story had on debating race in Colombia.

Keywords: race, beauty pageants, Colombia

Author: Khittel, Stefan (oiip, Austria / Österreich)


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