Under the Knife: Appearance and Wealth

Miss Bum Bum 2015 contest

Contestants in Brazil’s 2015 Miss Bum Bum competition. Photo credit: Splash News.

Looks aren’t everything—unless you live in Brazil or South Korea. Appearance-wise, the two nations’ citizens are polar opposites, yet both populations strive for a similar physical archetype. South Koreans undergo elective surgery to diverge from perceived Asian homogeneity and attain elements of Western beauty. Conversely, as a result of Brazil’s long, painful history of slavery, the country has an extremely diverse population. Between 1501 and 1866, an estimated 4.9 million slaves were imported to Brazil from Africa, which is a staggering 40 percent of the total slaves brought to the Americas. Despite this diversity, many Brazilians are determined to look white, regardless of how many procedures they might have to endure. Appearance and wealth are closely linked in Brazil and South Korea, and for many, cosmetic surgery is a small hurdle to jump in the race toward prosperity.

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Living with the Dead

Apasionadamente

Geraldine Javier, Ella Amo’ Apasionadamente y Fue Correspondida (For She Loved Fiercely, and She is Well-Loved), 2010, oil on canvas, with framed insets of embroidery with preserved butterflies, 229 x 160 cm, Singapore Art Museum collection

Regardless of religious dogma, most cultures believe in a clear line of demarcation between the living and the dead. Certain holidays, such as Samhain or Día de los Muertos, celebrate the dead and are believed to be occasions where the veil between life and death is at its thinnest. During these special events, the dead are given an opportunity to once again enter the realm of the living, under the caveat that they will soon depart again. However, in South Korea and the Philippines, growing populations and dwindling space have permanently blurred the line between the living and the dead.

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