Beauty contestant, 60, falls short of title

CONTESTANT Alejandra Rodriguez competes in the swimsuit category during the final of the Argentina Miss Universe pageant, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Saturday, May 25, 2024. The 60-year-old lawyer is hoping to make history by becoming the oldest Miss Universe contestant. / AP

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — A 60-year-old woman saw her dreams of becoming the oldest Miss Universe contestant in history melt away in a haze of sequins and selfies Saturday, May 25, 2024, at Argentina’s annual beauty pageant.

Alejandra Marisa Rodríguez, a hopital legal adviser whose entry into the competition had been cheered as a triumph over ageism in a youth-obsessed world, fell short of the Miss Argentina crown. But she did take home the title of “best face,” one of several pageant categories including best evening gown, best swimsuit and most elegant.

During the contest she thanked everyone who celebrated her success in the Miss Buenos Aires competition last month. Her win there, after Miss Universe eliminated its long-standing age limit, generated a frenzy of global media attention that vaulted her from obscurity to local fame.

In an instant the soft-spoken lawyer from the city of La Plata, south of Buenos Aires, was doling out moisturizer tips to women striving to achieve her surreally smooth face and promising the public there was truth to the adage that age is just a number.

“As a result of what happened to me, I believe a new door has opened for many people who perhaps did not have it easy,” Rodríguez told The Associated Press backstage after the event, still dressed in her red cocktail dress with slits revealing her legs. “It was adventure and I had no expectations of this other than taking on a new challenge.”

For the swimsuit portion of the Miss Argentina contest, Rodríguez chose a modest one-piece suit with a shawl draped over her shoulders, giving the crowd a shimmy as fans whooped and blew air horns.

But the judges preferred Magali Benejam, a 29-year-old actress and model from Cordoba who donned a skimpy blue bikini and sky-high stilettos to win “best swimsuit” and ultimately beat out the 27 other contestants to be crowned Miss Argentina.

“I’m so excited and so grateful to be here because the competition was not easy,” Benejam told AP. She will represent Argentina in Mexico City for the global competition in November.

Even Benejam’s victory would have been impossible a year ago, as the pageant had long capped the age of contestants at 28. This year, for the first time in its 73-year-history, the Miss Universe contest is welcoming any participant over age 18. / AP


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