60-Year-Old Woman Wins ‘Best Face’ at Miss Argentina Beauty Pageant

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — A 60-year-old woman watched her dream of becoming the oldest Miss Universe contestant ever disappear in a haze of sequins and selfies at Argentina’s annual beauty pageant on Saturday.

Alejandra Marisa Rodriguez, a legal adviser to the hospital whose participation was hailed as an antidote to ageism in a youth-obsessed world, fell short of the Miss Argentina crown, but did win the “Best Face” title, one of the pageant’s categories which also include Best Evening Dress, Best Swimsuit and Most Elegant.

(Marcos Gomez/AFP via Getty Images)

During the competition, she thanked everyone who congratulated her on her success at last month’s Miss Buenos Aires pageant. Her win sparked a worldwide media frenzy and catapulted her from obscurity to local celebrity after Miss Universe dropped its long-standing age limit.

In one moment, the soft-spoken lawyer from the city of La Plata, south of Buenos Aires, was offering moisturizer advice to women striving to achieve her ultra-smooth face, and assuring the public that the adage that age is just a number is true.

“I believe that what happened to me has opened new doors for a lot of people for whom it probably wasn’t easy,” Rodriguez told The Associated Press backstage after the event, wearing a red cocktail dress with a slit revealing her legs. “It was an adventure. I had no expectations other than to take on a new challenge.”

For the swimsuit section of the Miss Argentina pageant, Rodriguez opted for a modest one-piece swimsuit with a shawl draped over her shoulders, swaying as fans cheered and honked air horns.

But the judges gave the nod to Magali Benedjam, a 29-year-old actress and model from Cordoba, who wore a revealing blue bikini and sky-high heels to win the “Best Swimsuit” award and ultimately be crowned Miss Argentina, beating 27 other contestants.

“I’m very excited and very grateful to be here because this tournament was not easy,” Benedjam told The Associated Press, who will represent Argentina at the world championships in Mexico City in November.

Benejam’s victory would not have been possible a year ago because the Miss Universe pageant had long had an age limit of 28 for contestants. This year, for the first time in its 73-year history, the pageant is welcoming contestants aged 18 and over.

It’s just the latest in a series of changes to the pageant, which has been a target of feminist criticism since the 1968 Miss America pageant overturned “burning bra” protests.

For decades, the Miss Universe pageant presented itself as a celebration of unmarried women in their late teens and 20s striding before judges for praise on their looks and personality. As more and more people began to question that, organizers realized how out of touch the culture the pageant had become.

In recent years, as the #MeToo and social justice movements have swept across the globe, Miss Universe has struggled to convince skeptics that the mind and spirit are more important than the body.

Many controversial eligibility requirements have been abolished, and married, pregnant, lesbian, Transgender womenThe company has removed all references to “beauty” from its website.

However, because the pageant emphasized empathy, confidence and honesty as feminine ideals, the term “young woman” remained, and crow’s feet were therefore banned.

While many women praised Rodriguez’s decision to compete at age 60, others questioned whether she was setting unreasonable standards for older women, as her award-winning features, statuesque figure and chiseled features blended in with the younger generation onstage.

“This reinforces the idea that everyone should be able to look this way, that every 60-year-old woman should have the youthfulness and freshness of a 25-year-old,” said Lara Pasquinelli, an Argentine feminist activist. “If they don’t, it’s because they’re not willing to make the sacrifices.”