Fascinating Photos of Beauty Queens from Around the World

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For five years, photographer Zed Nelson traveled around the world investigating beauty — “a $160 billion-a-year global industry.” With plastic surgery and beauty pageants simultaneously on the rise everywhere, these shots of pageant winners are just one part of his incredible project Love Me , along with hyperventilating muscle men, beauty advertisements assaulting urban landscapes, and extremely graphic photographs of surgery. But first, look at all the lovely girls — from South Africa to Texas, from Brazilian jails to Moscow’s atomic energy agencies. It’s insightful, mesmerizing and… quite a bit overwhelming, even without the mid-surgery slabs of bleeding skin that can be found in his other work. What do you think?

Photo credit: Zed Nelson. Katie, age 9. Winner. Universal Royalty Texas State Pageant

Photo credit: Zed Nelson. ‘Miss Atom’. Elena Kamenskaya, 24. Winner. Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency annual beauty contest, for female staff aged 18-35. Moscow, Russia

Photo credit: Zed Nelson. Miss South Africa Competition. Sun City, South Africa

Photo credit: Zed Nelson. Tavalera Bruce maximum security women’s prison annual beauty contest. Belkis Estrella Maldonado, 31. Contestant number 9. Sentence: 4 years. Drug smuggling. Rio, Brazil

Photo credit: Zed Nelson. Abbie Jones, 15. 2nd place. Miss Teen British Isles contestant. Burton, UK

Photo credit: Zed Nelson. Ms. Olympia competition. Las Vegas, USA

Photo credit: Zed Nelson. Daniele Ramos, 23. Winner, ‘Miss Penetencaria’. Sentence: 4 years. Drug dealing. Rio, Brazil

Photo credit: Zed Nelson. “Old age is not for sissies.” Wendy Ballenden, 61. Former Miss South Africa Winner 1967. Sun City, South Africa

Photo credit: Zed Nelson. Contestant, Universal Royalty Texas State Pageant. Texas, USA

Photo credit: Zed Nelson. Loser, Miss England competition, Leicester, UK