In Paraguay fat girls are stars. Loved by thousand of admirers, in a country where obesity reaches 64% of population, las Miss Gorditas (Misses Fat in English) spark off controversy. A small and amateur Plus Size agency created in 2012, by the Brazilian Mike Beras, which goes against tyranny of thinness.
These misses coming from humble Asuncion’s districts want to change mentality and the 90-60-90 standard. But this is not as easy as it sounds. Many of them still live depressed because they have to face insults, bad jokes, and unemployment in a country that is the only one in South America in not having laws against discrimination.
When there is 104 F° you do understand why Paraguayans drink every minute tereré (icy tea infusion) to quench their thirst. I was in the street drinking tereré with Mike Beras, the Miss Gordita’s founder, waiting for a bus. We had to go to Lydia’s house situated far away from Asuncion’s center and very close to the jungle.
My idea was to make staged portraits of 10 Miss Gorditas girls. I did not want to do a traditional photo-story following each step of Miss Gorditas. I just wanted to represent them in her house or in their working place showing their pride and where they come from. And I also wanted to show their will to be famous. It is true that the only goal of the Mike Beras Plus Size Agency is to fight against tyranny of thinness in our modern society, but many of these girls also want to achieve celebrity. In a modern world where apparently being anonymous is equal to be a loser, everyone wants his 15 minutes of fame. I remember that I was about to make photographs of a Miss Gordita in her house when their parents stopped me. Her mother yelled at her “ you’d better use a shorter skirt for the photo!”
While we were heading for Lydia’s house Mike opened his suitcase full of flashy newspapers tear sheet about Miss Gorditas. Every week Mike asked to Paraguayans TV to be invited to speak about Miss Gorditas. Some TV programs were interested by Mike Beras’s work with his girls and others just wanted the clash for rating. In the bus to get to Lydia’s house, Mike couldn’t stop telling me his problem with Paraguayan TV. He seemed very obsessed but at the same time we know that the clashes he suffered of allowed Miss Gorditas to be famous in Paraguay.
Some TV programs are used to accusing Mike Beras of praising obesity in Paraguay while he tries to do the opposite.
This photo documentary and the article were first published in TV5 MONDE website and in La Nación Magazine in Argentina. Due to the success of my publications I had the great opportunity to go back to Paraguay to make a documentary for “L’Effet Papillon” a French TV program in Canal + channel. When I was doing the documentary one of the girl who was about to walk in the runway during Miss Gordita Paraguay 2015 Event asked me why I was smaller than my colleague I worked with. It made me smile (I am 5ft11 tall) because I felt a kind of discrimination from someone who was supposed to fight against it. Although, it is quite impossible to eliminate every kind of discriminations in our society I wish Paraguay could vote a law against them to reduce insults, bad jokes and lack of job opportunities.