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ONE PHOTO – ONE STORY

18.07.2016

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The Miss Chubby Paraguay beauty contest is aimed at women between 18 and 25 years with a bodyweight of 90 to 120 kilograms. Michael Beras established the pageant with the intention of questioning conventional beauty standards and opposing the stigmatisation of people with above-average weight. According to the Paraguay Health Ministry, almost 60 percent of the country’s adult population are obese or overweight. This high proportion does not, however, diminish the discrimination those affected frequently experience.

The beauty pageant is the last step of a three-month programme supported by a nutritionist, a psychologist and an image consultant. The contestants are encouraged to improve their eating habits and learn to be comfortable with their bodies. Photographer Luiz Cobelo accompanied the pageant with an M9 from the LFI loan-pool:

“In this photo we see Bianca Valdez, one of the participants of Miss Chubby Paraguay 2016. I had asked her to show me how she had been able to overcome her fears – and she responded by showing her body without any self-consciousness. ‘Three months ago, it would have seemed impossible to pose for a photo like this. The contest gave me the chance to overcome my fears, and today I feel secure about my body,’ she told me.

She has experienced rejection in the past. When her friends went for a spin in their car, she was excluded because of her size. Her ex-boyfriend coerced her into over-eating because he did not want other men looking at her. After she became overweight, her boyfriend started to go to the gym to lose weight himself. He tried to make her slim down, too – when she didn’t manage it, he left her. ‘Ironically, his new girlfriend is also overweight,’ Bianca tells me.”

Luis Cobelo

Luiz Cobelo (born 1970) holds a philosophy degree from the University of Zulia, Venezuela. His first exhibition took place in 1993. Since 2001, he has worked as a freelance photographer with a focus on documentary projects in America, Asia and Europe. His work has been featured in publications such as Rolling Stone, National Geographic, GQ, Vogue UK and Vice Mexico. He is the chief editor of LAT Photo Magazine, an online publication dedicated to Latin American documentary photography.

www.luiscobelo.com
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