Rio de Janeiro's Talavera Bruce is one of Brazil's toughest female detention center - a maximum security lockup in a country human rights organizations know as having the fourth largest population of convicted and imprisoned criminals.
With that being said, it might be surprising to find that such a tough and crowded prison is also home to an annual beauty pageant - where every year, model inmates are invited to compete for the title of 'Miss Talavera Bruce'.
The beauty pageant is hosted by local church groups and human rights organizations, and every year, volunteers help the inmates apply makeup, style their hair, and get dressed into donated outfits for the competition's swimwear and eveningwear competitions.
Both the organizations and Talavera Bruce Penitentiary decided to launch the pageants as a way to help humanize inmates and boost their self-esteems, as many of them are serving sentences of several decades.
Friends and family of the inmates are invited to attend and cheer their loved one on as they compete, and each year, the show is hosted by a celebrity - this time, Brazilian model and actress Carol Nakamura.
Last year's winner was Ana Carolina Rosa de Souza, a 22-year-old convicted of drug trafficking, who claims that her year as Miss Talavera Bruce has inspired her to continue on her path to become a better person, adding that the ten judges participating are looking less at looks and more at social merit:
"The competition is not just about beauty. The judges are looking for the ability to express sympathy."
This year's winner, Michelle Neri Rangel, has been serving out a 39-year sentence since 2010 for prostitution and armed robbery. After beating out nine other contestants, she told local newspapers that she's already felt a vast improvement in her own self-image.
"[This competition] is a question of honor. I'm feeling like a woman, I've learned how to feel like a woman in prison."
How do you feel about beauty pageants for female prisoners? Should we be considering the self-esteem and quality of life of those serving long sentences? Or do these kind of events take away from the severity and significance of 'doing time'?
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