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The dreams of a 60-year-old beauty contestant come to an abrupt end in Argentina

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — A 60-year-old woman saw her dream of becoming the oldest Miss Universe contestant in history fade into a haze of glitter and selfies Saturday at Argentina’s annual beauty pageant .

Alejandra Marisa Rodríguez, a hospital legal advisor whose participation in the pageant had been hailed as a triumph over ageism in a world obsessed with youth, failed to win the Miss Argentina crown. But she won “best face,” one of several categories in the competition, including best evening dress, best swimsuit and most elegant.

During the pageant, she thanked everyone who celebrated her success in the Miss Buenos Aires pageant last month. Her victory there, after Miss Universe eliminated its long-standing age limit, generated a frenzy of global media attention that propelled her from obscurity to local fame.

In one moment, the soft-spoken lawyer from the town of La Plata, south of Buenos Aires, was doling out moisturizing tips to women striving to achieve a surreal, smooth face and promising the audience that the adage that age was just a number was true. .

“As a result of what happened to me, I believe a new door has opened for a lot of people who may not have had an easy life,” Rodríguez told the Associated Press in backstage after the event, still wearing her red cocktail dress with revealing slits. legs. “It was an adventure and I expected nothing more from it than to take on a new challenge.”

For the swimsuit portion of the Miss Argentina pageant, Rodríguez chose a modest one-piece suit with a shawl draped over her shoulders, giving the crowd a shimmy as fans screamed and blew horns.

But the judges favored Magali Benejam, a 29-year-old actress and model from Cordoba, who donned a skimpy blue bikini and sky-high stilettos to win the “best swimsuit” award and ultimately beat out the other 27 contestants to be crowned Miss Argentina.

“I’m so excited and so grateful to be here because the competition wasn’t easy,” Benejam told AP. She will represent Argentina in Mexico for the world competition in November.

Even Benejam’s victory would have been impossible a year ago, because the competition had long capped the age of candidates at 28. This year, for the first time in its 73-year history, the Miss Universe competition welcomes any participant over 18 years old. .

It’s just the latest in a series of changes for a pageant that has been a lightning rod for feminist criticism since “bra-burning” protests upended the 1968 Miss America pageant.

For decades, the Miss Universe pageant has openly portrayed itself as an extravagant spectacle of single women in their late teens and 20s strutting in front of judges to assess their appearance and personality. As more and more people found this troubling, organizers realized how far the competition was lagging behind the culture.

In recent years, as the #MeToo and social justice movements have swept the world, Miss Universe has been quick to persuade skeptics that it’s more about the mind and spirit than the body.

It removed many controversial eligibility requirements, opening the field to married, pregnant, lesbian and transgender women, and removed any mention of “beauty” from its website.

Yet while the pageant emphasized empathy, confidence, and authenticity as feminine ideals, the “young woman” designation remained in place, and with it, the ban on crow’s feet.

While many women praised Rodriguez’s decision to compete at age 60, others questioned whether she set an unreasonable standard for older women. Her award-winning face, statuesque figure and sculpted features allowed her to blend in with the younger crowd on stage.

“It contributes to the impression that everyone should be able to look like that, that all 60-year-old women should look young and fresh, like they were 25,” Lala Pasquinelli said. , an Argentinian feminist activist. “If they don’t, it’s because they’re not willing to make sacrifices.”

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