In pageant-crazy Venezuela, men compete for Miss Gay crown

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In pageant-crazy Venezuela, men compete for Miss Gay crown
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, contestant Jendert Mujica, Miss Gay Nueva Esparta, with freshly applied makeup, rests backstage with his head reclined at the ninth annual Miss Gay Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, contestant Janwuil Lugo, Miss Gay Falcon, stuffs his bra backstage at the ninth annual Miss Gay Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
A contestant holds his wig as he's prepared for the ninth Miss Gay Venezuela in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, contestant Jorge Solano, Miss Gay Cojedes, is assisted backstage at the ninth annual Miss Gay Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, contestant Alfredo Lopez, Miss Gay Miranda, brushes on body makeup backstage at the ninth annual Miss Gay Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
A contestant competes in the ninth Miss Gay Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Contestants get their makeup retouched backstage during the ninth Miss Gay Venezuela in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Contestants prepare backstage for the ninth Miss Gay Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
A contestant is helped backstage at the ninth Miss Gay Venezuela in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, contestants get their makeup applied backstage at the ninth annual Miss Gay Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela, where a photo of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez hangs on the wall. The contestants' helpers are professional stylists by trade, and the teams can spend up to five hours transforming the contestant into pageant-ready material. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, contestant Anderson Requena, Miss Gay Aragua, slips on a pair of heels backstage at the ninth annual ninth annual Miss Gay Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela. Each contestant dons the same pair of heels, opening ceremony outfit and swimsuit. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, contestant Alfredo Lopez, Miss Gay Miranda, competes at the ninth annual Miss Gay Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela. Some of the contestant's evening gowns are from Venezuela's top designers who also work with the Miss Venezuela organization. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, contestant Jorge Solano, Miss Gay Cojedes, inspects his wig backstage at the ninth annual Miss Gay Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela. Some contestants can afford to use wigs made of real, natural hair, while others use synthetic wigs. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, contestant Alfredo Lopez, Miss Gay Miranda, waits backstage to compete in the ninth annual Miss Gay Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela. Beauty pageants have risen to the level of a national sport in Venezuela, which claims to have produced more international contest winners than any other country. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, contestant Carlos Angevil, Miss Gay Vargas, competes in the swimsuit category of the ninth annual Miss Gay Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela. Miss Gay Venezuela requires contestants be younger than 37 and be at least 1.7 meters (5' 6" feet) tall. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, Argenis Gonzalez, 24, is crowned Miss Gay Venezuela by last year's winner Sandro Porras in Caracas, Venezuela. The jeweled crown was designed by Gorge Wittels, who also designs the crowns for Miss Venezuela. When not dressed as a woman, Gonzalez, a social media coordinator, goes by the name Manuel. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, contestants dance during the ninth annual Miss Gay Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela. There are two ways to get into the contest: by paying an inscription fee and financing oneself, or getting picked in a casting by the Miss Gay Venezuela organization which then pays the contestant's bills. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, contestant Eduardo Ramirez, Miss Gay Trujillo, sits backstage with his hair half-finished ahead of the ninth annual Miss Gay Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela. Contestants spend a lot of money and time searching for products that are hard to come by in Venezuela, due to currency controls and the scarcity of some goods, such as color contact lenses, hair spray, artificial eyelashes and body make-up. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, Argenis Gonzalez wears the Miss Gay Venezuela crown after winning the beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela. âItâs a great achievement to get to be the face of what is such a large community in Latin America, and even bigger in our country,â said Gonzalez, a 24-year-old social media coordinator. âAnd to have so many straight people cheering us on makes me feel really privileged.â When not dressed as a woman, Gonzalez goes by the first name Manuel. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, a contestant is helped with his dress backstage at the ninth annual Miss Gay Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela. After painstaking preparation, contestants wearing 1950s-style cat eye makeup, pink lips and blonde pin curls performed song and dance numbers and strutted their stuff in sequined dresses created by some of Venezuelaâs top designers. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, contestants get their makeup retouched backstage at the Miss Gay Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela. The ninth annual pageant was held to promote equal rights for gays. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, beauty pageant winner Argenis Gonzalez, center, poses for photographers with others contestants after being crowned Miss Gay Venezuela in Caracas, Venezuela. The ninth annual contest maintained some beauty contest norms, like evening wear and swimsuit competitions. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
In this Oct. 18, 2015 photo, contestant Jorge Solano, Miss Gay Cojedes, waits backstage, ready to compete in the Miss Gay Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas, Venezuela. At the ninth annual competition, men donned elaborate wigs and layers of makeup to show off their skills in what they call âthe art of transformation.â (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — There's a beauty contest for almost everyone in pageant-obsessed Venezuela.

In the popular Miss Gay Venezuela competition, men don elaborate wigs and layers of makeup to show off their skills in what they call "the art of transformation."

At the ninth annual event on Sunday, the frenzy of backstage activity was intense, with young men pinning wigs into place, adjusting fake breasts and creating hourglass figures by wrapping their waists multiple times with thick tape. Some spent up to five hours getting ready.

After their painstaking preparation, contestants wearing 1950s-style cat eye makeup, pink lips and blonde pin curls performed song and dance numbers and strutted their stuff in sequined dresses created by some of Venezuela's top designers.

Beauty pageants have reached the level of national sport in Venezuela, which claims to have produced more international contest winners than any other country. Young women from poor neighborhoods pay huge sums to attend beauty schools with hopes of making it to the international pageant circuit. Young men compete in events that reward handsome faces and chiseled muscles.

The Miss Gay contest is less conventional, but still cleaves to some beauty contest norms, including evening wear and swimsuit competitions. All contestants have to be younger than 37 and stand at least 1.7 meters (5'6") tall.

The winner of Sunday's event was 24-year-old social media coordinator Manuel Gonzalez, who competed as Argenis Gonzalez. In classic beauty queen style, he burst into tears after it was announced he had won as the representative of Carabobo state.

"It's a great achievement to get to be the face of what is such a large community in Latin America, and even bigger in our country," Gonzalez said after the glittery, silvery crown was placed on his head. "And to have so many straight people cheering us on makes me feel really privileged."


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