Synopses & Reviews
Queen for a Day
connects the logic of Venezuelan modernity with the production of a national femininity. In this ethnography, Marcia Ochoa considers how femininities are produced, performed, and consumed in the mass-media spectacles of international beauty pageants, on the runways of the Miss Venezuela contest, on the well-traveled Caracas avenue where transgender women (transformistas
) project themselves into the urban imaginary, and on the bodies of both transformistas
and beauty pageant contestants (misses
). Placing transformistas
in the same analytic frame enables Ochoa to delve deeply into complex questions of media and spectacle, gender and sexuality, race and class, and self-fashioning and identity in Venezuela.
Beauty pageants play an outsized role in Venezuela. The country has won more international beauty contests than any other. The femininity performed by Venezuelan women in high-profile, widely viewed pageants defines a kind of national femininity. Ochoa argues that as transformistas and misses work to achieve the bodies, clothing and makeup styles, and postures and gestures of this national femininity, they come to embody Venezuelan modernity.
"A gifted ethnographer with an eye for detail, Marcia Ochoa weaves rich narratives of contemporary Venezuela and its complex cultural geography of gendered, sexualized, racialized, and classed bodies and selves caught in the pursuit of alluring beauty and accomplished femininity. Queen for a Day is a queer diasporic ethnography that complicates practices of cultural consumption and production within the shifting terrains of normality and 'abnormality,' the nation and the global, and home and away." Martin F. Manalansan IV, author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora
"Marcia Ochoa's engaging ethnographic meditation on femininity in Venezuela focuses on gays, women, and transgendered people who perform glamour in beauty pageants and as sex workers on the street called Avenida Libertador. This work reveals the social forces as well as the plastic surgery and injections that produce desired female bodies. Ochoa's world of high frivolity that many do not take seriously reveals much about Venezuela that cannot be learned from the earnest realm of male politics." Renato Rosaldo, author of The Day of Shelly's Death: The Poetry and Ethnography of Grief
andldquo;In this book Ochoa gathers several different and distinctive scales of analysis, from international fashion circuits and the role of mass media to the body, the smallest unit of analysis. At the same time, public discourses about beauty and femininity are examined in an interrelated way, along with problems of race, modernity, and discourses about the nation. One of the most attractive aspects of this book is its inscription of all these problems in the long process of modernityandrsquo;s production, with the purpose of searching beyond interpersonal relationships. As an anthropologist, Ochoa constructs a clearheaded ethnography of mass media, beauty, and femininity that includes a careful description of the physical space of the streets and city of Caracas overall.andrdquo;
andldquo;[A] complex ethnological study of the phenomenon of la belleza venezolana (Venezuelan beauty). . . . This work does an admirable job in its efforts to provide both the context of the performance of femininity and beauty in Venezuela and more specifics on the experience of male-bodied, feminine people in the nation.andrdquo;
About the Author
Marcia Ochoa is Associate Professor of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.