Señorita 89 goes behind the scenes into the dark underbelly of the Miss Mexico Beauty Pageant in 1989.
32 lovely ladies from all across Mexico are brought together to be groomed and prepared for the 1989 Miss Mexico Pageant. The contestants, each representing different provinces of the country, are housed at a gorgeous estate that looks like a paradise vacation. But, like the contestants themselves, the beauty on the surface hides the secrets within and the ugly side of the beauty pageant is revealed.
Señorita 89 Exposes The Ugly Side of Beauty
Señorita 89 is a spectacular thriller that deeply explores the theme of beauty. Beauty is well reflected in the set design, costumes, and cinematography of the series. Each of the 32 contestants is adorned with fabulous fashion, especially when presenting themselves to the eyes of the adoring public. The compound where the majority of the story takes place is essentially a paradise. All of which is beautifully framed and traversed in masterful cinematography.
But that same gorgeous camerawork is used to show the ugliness behind the scenes. The same settings are transformed with ominous lighting that creates shadows and contrast that thoroughly change the mood. The duality of the environment reflects the duality of the show’s premise and the characters in it. It is wonderfully symbolic of the show and infuses the story with a tremendous amount of gravitas.
The 32 pageant contestants all have their own reasons for being in the contest and it’s not just to be crowned “La Reina.” Many live in deplorable situations of toxicity and hopelessness and this is their opportunity to change their life. The series does well to make the contestants more than just pretty people. The world within the series, on the other hand, continually treats them as objects to be used and abused. It is hard to watch at times, as extreme measures are taken to get the girls show-ready, including forced surgeries and drug abuse.
But despite the objectification of them, the contestants are some of the best characters on television. The world of the show sees them as shallow for taking part in a beauty contest, but these women know it is their chance at a better life. They understand the game and are playing it. Señorita 89 puts these women through a lot, but they are not helpless victims to the circumstances. They are fighters facing each battle that comes their way in hopes to win the war.
One of the Señorita 89‘s main characters, Elena (Ximena Romo) is highly educated and kind of looks down on the pageantry of all of it. However, she is very interested and gets herself hired as the teacher to the contestants, in order for them to appear to seem sophisticated when they are answering questions. She assigns the ladies books to read in class, which books that highlight the patriarchy and sort of the helplessness of beautiful women.
Miss Yucatan (Natasha Dupeyrón) is a bit disruptive during the lesson. Elena is bothered as she feels she is enlightening the women with her lesson plan. However, Miss Yucatan is privy to her plans and calls Elena out. Miss Yucatan not only sees her plans, but has read the books Elena assigned and knows the meaning, the symbolism, and the point Elena is trying to get across. In a glorious turn of tables, she reverses the condemnation Elena has for them and points out her hypocrisy and arrogance. Elena is put into her place and begins to open her mind as she thought she would be for the women of the pageant.
The one downside to the Señorita 89 is that there is too much to cover. The show is so enthralling you want it all. Each episode prioritizes a single contestant, but you get splatterings of many of the others throughout the episode. However, by the next episode, the entire story progresses so you are left wondering what the others were up to. It’s a great issue to have as it is a testament to the amazing storytelling ability of series writer María Renée Prudencio.
The best and defining aspect of Señorita 89, in my opinion, is the depth and humanity all of the characters have. Even the most deplorable of them. The people running the compound have built an empire and legacy and are willing to do what it takes to ensure it thrives. The contestants are objectified but aren’t helpless and one-dimensional. They endure, they adapt, they fight. The perceptions and associations of the beauty pageant are challenged, the conspiracy and tragedy exposed. It is an insanely complex system of circumstances and characters made grippingly palatable that viewers will continuously want to explore more.
Señorita 89 is an enthralling series that is beautifully, but painfully, real. Its genuine capturing of the gorgeous and gruesome nature of people and the pageant is sometimes hard to watch but is damn good storytelling. The series may not be directly based on reality, but from the harrowing tales that often come out too late, it does dutiful work of not making light of the realities of the industry and time period. Señorita 89 is a shining example that good stories and filmmaking transcend cultures and language.
Señorita 89 gets a 4.5/5
About Señorita 89
Directors: Lucia Puenzo, Nicolás Puenzo, Sílvia Quer and Jimena Montemayor
Writers: Lucia Puenzo, María Renée Prudencio and Tatiana Mereñuk
Executive Producers: Juan de Dios, Pablo Larraín, Angela Poblete and Mariane Hartard at Fabula with Christian Vesper from Fremantle
Cast: Ilse Salas, Juan Manuel Bernal, Ximena Romo, Natasha Dupeyron, Bárbara López, Luis Ernesto Franco, Edwarda Gurrola and Ianis Guerrero
SENORITA 89 is a thriller set in Mexico’s glamorous ’80s scene. It follows Concepción (Ilse Salas), the matriarch of the most important beauty contest in the country. Together with a team of expert makeup artists, trainers, and even surgeons, she welcomes 32 finalists to her estate, La Encantada. There, they will endure three months of arduous training until they reach the Miss Mexico pageant.
Have you watched Señorita 89? What do you think about the series? Would you participate in a beauty pageant after watching the series? Let us know in the comments below and share your reaction to the series with us on Twitter.