Calling All Latin Beauties

G. Murillo/Univision Online

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The contestants hoping to win a spot on Our Latin Beauty — the new Spanish-language counterpart to America's Next Top Model -- sat on metal bleachers under a canopy outside of Univision's studios in Doral last Saturday morning. Dressed in a dazzling array of animal prints, lace, various concoctions of satin and even velour, the women aged 18 to 27 looked like a tropical aviary. The waiting area was a rainforest ecosystem that generated its own clouds of perfume and hair products to replenish a root system of stilletto heels and platform espadrilles.

The women all faced the same direction, some with arms or legs crossed, some slouching slightly, others with perfect posture. Their blow-dried, layered hair seemed frozen in place. Their lipstick represented the full spectrum of a Cover Girl drug store display. Bustiers were in full effect.

When photographers approached, the savvy among them straightened and preened. They smiled with the professional ease of an Aquafresh model. One thing was certain: Every woman here thought she was beautiful.

Miami was the second of five cities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico that Univision will scout for possible candidates. Hundreds showed up on Saturday alone, competing for only twelve spots. The show will be filmed here starting in March. The grand prize will be a one-year contract to work as a presenter on the network.

Suzie De Los Santos, eighteen, drove twelve hours from Raleigh, North Carolina accompanied by her mother. She wore a red... it could be called a blouse, but it was defined more by its negative space than its actual presence. There was a metal clasp somewhere in the vicinity of her midriff.

De Los Santos was very, very pretty — dark eyes, long black hair, a lovely smile. She contends that Our Latin Beauty will be more competitive than similar English-language programs. "Hispanic women are just so beautiful," she said with a southern twang. "They have a mixture of everything. They're not just your typical female."

Next to her, Francia Seidner, originally from Marisales, Colombia but now a resident of Tampa, agreed. Seidner is a 22-year-old studying physical therapy. Her hair was long and straight, dyed blond. She wore a midriff-baring silver and black-striped mini-top, black leggings and stilletto boots. She was going for an edgier look. When she woke up at 6:00 a.m. that morning to drive down, she had on a different outfit, but decided it was too elegant.

Ester Vargas, 25, a Dominican from Orlando, wore a Dukes of Hazzard-inspired gingham checked top, tied in a knot at the midriff, and jeans. "I think (the show) might be related to America's Next Top Model," she said carefully, "but since we're Latinas it will probably have more dancing." -- Emily Witt

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