The Miss Venezuela pageant is slimming down.
The legendary beauty contest that has produced six Miss Universe winners — including the current one and the last one — and is the most-watched TV event in Venezuela, has been forced to eliminate 10 contestants this year to cut costs amid an economic downturn.
Usually 30 beauties compete for the Miss Venezuela crown, but this year producer Joaquin Riviera said there will be 20 because of the high costs of putting on the program.
"It's a problem of costs in order not to diminish the quality of the show," Riviera said at a news conference with the contestants. "This year ... everyone has had to tighten the belt."
Current Miss Universe Stefania Fernandez will pass along the crown to a new Miss Venezuela when she is chosen at the pageant on Sept. 24.
Fernandez's win in the Bahamas last month made Venezuela the first country to claim the Miss Universe title two years in a row, after Dayana Mendoza was crowned in 2008. Four others from the beauty-obsessed South American nation previously won Miss Universe.
Riviera said the tighter budget has raised to an even higher level the exacting demands of Osmel Sousa, who heads the Miss Venezuela organization.
"I asked Osmel to be even more rigorous in the selection of the 20 so that they'd be even prettier," Riviera said.