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Venezuela: Rise and shine and get your manicure

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Charlie Devereux

(Read caption) Early hours at Plaza Kid’s beauty salon.

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

It’s 6:30 on a Monday morning and at Plaza Kid’s, a beauty salon in Caracas, six women are already having their hair blow-dried and their nails filed.

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Scenes such as this are not uncommon in Venezuela, where female beauty is highly prized and a sunrise appointment the only time when working women can fit personal maintenance into their busy lives.

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Aura Chacon, an insurance broker, says she usually comes in each week early on a Monday or Tuesday before work to have her hair styled; some women book up to two appointments a week. “I do this to feel good about myself, but also because my clients expect me to be well turned out,” she says.

At around $8 for a one-hour appointment, Ms. Chacon says she finds this luxury relatively affordable, especially compared with the prices she paid when she lived briefly in Spain. “It’s calculated into my weekly budget,” she explains. “If you don’t have the money, you always find a way of paying for this.”

Venezuela’s beautiful women have gained some notoriety abroad. Collectively, this South American nation’s beauty queens have won more international beauty pageants than any other country. Last year, one Venezuelan handed over the Miss Universe crown to a fellow citizen – the first time that had occurred in the history of the competition.

So it’s no surprise that an obsession with female glamour has trickled down to other levels of Venezuelan society. “I want to look good for myself,” says Samantha Perez, who works in human resources. “That comes from maturity, but younger women might just want to look good for other people.”