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Posted December 1, 2005
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São Paulo Journal

Felons All, but Free to Try Being Beauty Queen for a Day

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Photographs by Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times

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Local beauty schools and charities provided makeup and wax and hair treatments. The Miss Penitenciária pageant is quickly becoming one of the best-known pageants in beauty-obsessed Brazil.
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Though each contestant received a package with shampoos, lotions and makeup, better self-esteem, they said, was the biggest part of the payoff.
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Four inmates from this prison participated in the annual contest in São Paulo.
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Rather than shackles and prison yellow, the convicts donned evening gowns and high heels, bathing suits and costume jewelry.
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Charged to ignore the women's crimes, the jury instead was instructed to judge them on their beauty and congeniality, and on their talents in writing essays and poetry.
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The finale took place in the courtyard of a prison for women.
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