Jamaica's famous for its athletes, Italy for its pizzas. Venezuela, which has just bagged the title of Miss Universe for the sixth time, is seemingly making a name for itself in beautiful women. So what is it about the South American state - unrivalled charm, or easily accessible plastic surgeons? Our Observer (see photo), a former Miss Venezuela competitor, explains it all.

Winner of Miss Universe 2008, Venezuela took this year's crown too at the end of Sunday's beauty battle in the Bahamas, financed by American business magnate Donald Trump. Only the US, with seven crowns, stands rival to Venezuela and its 26 million inhabitants. 

New Miss Universe Stefanía Fernández, 18, reckons she knows why Venezuela keeps winning. "It's our spontaneity" she explained after her victory. Really?

Jennifer after winning Miss Lara

“Each candidate's advisor proposes certain operations”

Jennifer J. Schell represented the province of Lara in the Miss Venezuela contest 2005. She spent nine months training from 6am to 11pm. Educated in political science, she now works for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I can't deny it, some Miss Venezuelas do have plastic surgery. Each candidate's advisor proposes certain operations which the girl can then accept or refuse. These operations are not disallowed by the contest organisers. And plastic surgery is very cheap here; three times cheaper than in the US. Seven candidates came to Venezuela this year to 'prepare' for the contest. Miss Ecuador, Miss Costa Rica... Most candidates from South America do it. When I was competing, I personally had liposuction on my knees done.

Dayana Mendoza, the Venezuelan who won Miss Universe 2008, caused quite a scandal when she admitted to having had resorted to plastic surgery. She'd had her nose and bust operated on before the contest. And although it's not disallowed, she got a lot of criticism. Spanish contender Claudia Moro for example, said: ‘I know that plastic surgery's allowed so it's no surprise that some candidates resort to it. But I prefer natural beauty." According to Venezuelan weekly magazine Version Final, Dayana had work done on her nose because she found that it was ‘too droopy' when she smiled. And she thought she was ‘too flat-chested' to be Miss Universe.

Girls from Venezuela's middle class dream of being in a beauty contest. Miss Venezuela is the most watched TV programme in the country. Almost two thirds of TV watchers are glued to the set during the four-hour contest. And that has its consequences - the Venezuelan Society of Cosmetic Surgery completes between 25,000 and 30,000 breast implants per year."

Jennifer after being elected "Banana Queen" in Ecuador.