May 3, 2001 -- Juliana Borges, the Brazilian bombshell set to compete in next week's Miss Universe pageant, is not shy about the fact that she's had 19 surgical procedures, including collagen injections in her lips and silicone implants in her breasts, cheeks and chin.
"It's like studying for a math exam and you get good grades," says Borges. "You study and you work hard to have the perfect body."
But is it perfect if it's been surgically enhanced? Should beauty pageant contestants who've had plastic surgery be allowed to compete? These are questions being asked by some of Borges' competitors in the Miss Universe pageant.
When Evandro Rossi, who trains up-and-coming women for beauty pageants, spotted Borges in her hometown in the south of Brazil, he saw something he could work with.
"I took a rough gem that wasn't worked," he says, "and created her. I made these small changes … She was a diamond that hasn't been worked and I brought her to life. I created Juliana and it worked."
As part of the "creation" process, 22-year-old Borges underwent 19 surgical procedures, all in the last year.
"I had several surgeries," she says, "but they were all totally subtle, so I wouldn't have any marks, any scars and so there wouldn't be a big difference to how I was before."
Those "subtle" surgeries include breast implants, bioplastic sculpting in her cheekbones, silicone remolding in her chin, a sharpened jaw, pinned back ears and liposuction in her waistline and back.
"The same way someone has to study to become a doctor," says Borges, "someone has to train. I have to work on my figure to get it where I want it … It's something I needed for my profession, for my work."
She adds, "I have a doctorate in body measurements."
An Unfair Advantage?
But some of Borges' competitors think her enhancements are an unfair advantage.
"How can you really be proud of your body if it's not really you?" asks Kandace Krueger, Miss USA. "I work very hard to be in shape and try to follow a strict regimen of diet and working out, and therefore, I feel like I can be especially proud."
But there are no rules against the use of plastic surgery in the Miss Universe pageant.
In fact, Donald Trump, who owns the pageant, says there's only one rule: "You have to be born a woman." And even that single rule was brought into question last week when there was buzz that Miss France had actually been born a man.
That rumor turned out to be false, but the plastic surgery debate has not been resolved as easily.
"Women and people choose to have plastic surgery," says Trump. "There's nothing we can do about it. There's no policing it. It's sort of interesting that most of the winners are very natural … you can't create true beauty."
A Dream Within Reach
Borges, who has been very public about her plastic surgery, says many other contestants go under the knife.
"I think if they don't want to identify themselves, then I'm not going to say it," she says. "But certainly some of them have done it."
She says, "I'm happy to show that any woman, even if she doesn't feel very pretty or very perfect, can make the effort to do this and fulfill a dream she would like to realize. I think this is now within reach."
Next week, the judges will decide whether Borges — and her plastic surgeon — deserve the Miss Universe crown.