‘Señorita 89’ series explores the ugly side of beauty pageants

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Coty Camacho stars as Miss Oaxaca in ‘Senorita 89.’

Photo: Karla Lisker / Karla Lisker

Beauty pageants are still big business all over the world. And they’re particularly popular in Latin America.

Families, from grandparents to young children, still gather around the television to see who takes the crown. Title winners are treated like A-list celebrities. “Nuestra Belleza Latina,” a reality TV beauty pageant, is one of the Univision network’s most popular programs. It has run for a dozen seasons, with the winner decided by public vote.

“Señorita 89” looks beyond the sequins at the darker side of what it means to be beautiful. The eight-episode political thriller premiered last month on Pantaya, a Spanish-language streaming service. It focuses on 32 finalists who move into a palatial ranch to prepare for the Miss Mexico pageant and their mysterious matriarch.

”There isn’t just one story here. There are many, from the contestants to those in charge. All the characters have valid perspectives,” says Coty Camacho, who plays Miss Oaxaca.

In the first episode, we see the contestants endure criticism of everything from their weight to their smiles. One even undergoes plastic surgery in a secret operating room. Camacho and Natasha Dupeyrón, who plays Miss Yucatan, spoke about the series and the danger in beauty pageants.

Q: Why was this series something you were drawn to?

‘Señorita 89’

Episodes 1-4 now streaming on Pantaya

New episodes every Sunday

Natasha: Starting with the story, when I read the script, I said, “I love this. It’s so well-written. It has interesting characters, strong women.” I fell in love with my character from the first scene.

Coty: Yes, I think reading the script and the story of my character made me really want to be a part of it. Also to know that I would be sharing the stage with marvelous actresses. I had to be a part of this project.

Q: Who are these women you portray in the series?

Coty: Angeles, Miss Oaxaca, is a woman from the south who confronts a lot of violence. She’s a woman who in the beginning had an illusion to find a new paradigm through entering this contest, to be able to save her family, to give her son an opportunity. She knows she has to lie to enter this contest. She’s a single mother, and she knows very well that beauty pageants require you to practically be a virgin. To be a ‘senorita’ and to not have children because it changes your body. It changes this image that they always want to sell us of a perfect woman.

Natasha: Isabel is a woman who very clearly knows what she wants. She thinks if she enters and wins this contest, what she will get is freedom. It’s what she wants most. She know if she stays in Merida (her family) will marry her off, they’ll turn her into a mother, even though she’s not ready. They’ll stop her from dreaming, from having a job. She finds out this contest isn’t as beautiful as it was painted. But she doesn’t care and decides to play instead of returning to her family.

Q: Were you fans of beauty pageants, and did this change your opinion of them?

Natasha: I don’t remember sitting on the couch with my family watching these contests. But you heard about them, you saw the winners. One way or another, you found out. I think after this series, I understand how terrible they are. But I understood the reasons why these women entered these contests. This series is not a mockery of them. It’s a criticism of the people who organize, who patronize, who carry out these events. I do not support them in the slightest. I firmly believe that any event that judges, criticizes the body of a person should not be permitted.

Coty: Anything where someone else has the right to say something about our bodies should not continue to exist. I do remember watching beauty pageants and wanting to at one time to represent Oaxaca. But I also knew that I didn’t fit within what they showed us on television. But this also happens with novelas, with Fashion Week and modeling. The series turns a mirror on all these things.

Q: What do you hope people get from watching?

Natasha: Hopefully, after this series, beauty pageants no longer exist. Women can represent Mexico or anywhere in healthier, more beautiful ways. Contests that focus on sports, mathematics, literature. Things that don’t put anyone at risk.

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  • Joey Guerra

    Joey Guerra is the music critic for the Houston Chronicle. He also covers various aspects of pop culture. He has reviewed hundreds of concerts and interviewed hundreds of celebrities, from Justin Bieber to Dolly Parton to Beyonce. He’s appeared as a regular correspondent on Fox26 and was head judge and director of the Pride Superstar singing competition for a decade. He has been named journalist of the year multiple times by both OutSmart Magazine and the FACE Awards. He also covers various aspects of pop culture, including the local drag scene and “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”



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