Beauty contest behind bars

Society

One last touch …

… and then the competitors head onto the improvised catwalk in the Talavare Bruce women's detention facility in Rio de Janeiro. Volunteers have come to the high-security prison especially for the event to make up and style the inmates.

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Gowns instead of uniform

It's about to start. Only 10 of the 440 inmates have made it to the final round. They are being judged not only on their attractiveness, but also their good conduct.

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A reason for pride

Most of the women in Talavera Bruce are there for drug offenses. According to figures from Brazil's Justice Ministry, the number of women in prison rose almost 600 percent from 2000 to 2014. The annual beauty contest is a welcome change from the prison routine.

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Two rounds to go

The jury casts its critical eye over the women in evening gowns and in beach fashion. Looks, posture and likeability are the criteria. The winner receives a fan, the runner-up a hair dryer and third place a styling iron.

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A step toward resocialization

The directors of the prison argue that the women can gain self-esteem by parading in front of the other inmates on the improvised red carpet. This is good for life after prison, they say.

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'My soul is freed'

This year the prize goes to Mayana Alves (r.). It is presented by last year's winner, who is allowed onto the catwalk once more for the purpose. "During this moment, I don’t feel like I am in jail," says 28-year-old Michelle Rangel (l.). "My soul is freed."

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A mother's hug

This year's winner, Mayana Alves, displays some striking tattoos. "Of course, I would prefer freedom, but I will take this prize with me when I get out." For her, the best thing about the event is that her mother is allowed to be there.

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Everyone's a winner

The first prize may give the winner special prestige and advantages with the prison's walls, but all the finalists benefit from taking part. That's because the real climax is the meeting with family and friends after the event. There, Rossana Goncalves is able to see four of her five children again.

A fan, a hair dryer and a styling iron — these are the prizes at a beauty pageant in a women's prison in Brazil. But for the contestants, there's more at stake than just a place on the podium.