10 February 2009

Death of a Beauty Queen - Brazil's Mariana Bridi Costa

Just seeing at the pictures of this beauty queen from Brazil, I can say that she's very vibrant, sweet, poised, strong and confident. She has long legs that makes her so sexy. She has a captivating smile and gorgeous eyes.

But those legs were amputated. Not only the legs but the beauty queen has gone. She died fighting to survive.

She was Mariana Bridi Costa. She made headlines around the world last month for contracting a seemingly ordinary urinary tract infection. The bacteria spread quickly and inexorably through her body, proving to be extremely drug resistant. In a desperate bid to save her life, doctors amputated her hands and feet. But by last week of January, she was dead.

One month ago, 20-year-old beauty queen Mariana was living the dream of many young Brazilian women, trading her striking good looks for a modeling career that promised to lift her family out of poverty.

It is very frustrating to hear her stories especially if she was doing all means to uplift the status of her life. She was very strong in her last days on earth and really fought the battle so hard to keep on living. I am sure many of us were inspired.

I am sharing you an article written by one of her mentors in the beauty pageants, Henrique Fontes. This was written during the time Mariana was fighting so hard.

Spend a little time to read this.

I can say that in these three years producing the Miss World Brazil pageant, without a doubt, Mariana Bridi Costa, the young beauty queen who made headlines all over the world for having her hands and feet amputated in the last few days, and is now fighting to survive, has one of the most inspiring stories among all the girls who have competed in our pageant.

In 2006, when after years Brazil had an exclusive contest to select its representative for Miss World, and another for Miss Brazil Universe, Mariana found us in the internet and asked how she could participate in the pageant. She sent a few amateur photos taken at home, and said she would do whatever she could in order to participate in the national pageant.

With a couple of days for Miss Brazil World’s kick-out, on July 2006, Mariana informed us that she was ready to compete, and asked if it would be ok for her to be a day late, since she would spend nearly a whole day on a bus traveling from Vitória to Curitiba. How could we say no?

Mariana had no fancy wardrobe, no plastic surgeries, no coaching, but there she was, fulfilling her dream. She had tremendous will, lots of charisma, and, of course, she looked stunning.

Ms. Bridi passed unnoticed the days preceding Miss Brazil’s final event, but when the game began, Mariana truly shone. She made it to the top 24, then to the top 10, and finally, for many people’s surprise, there she was, among the 5 finalists. The spontaneous and courageous country girl who represented the city of Guarapari, was one of the 5 most beautiful young women in her country.

She finished as 3rd runner-up in the competition won by Jane Borges. Mariana left several favorites behind and was very happy with her accomplishment. When she returned home, she was welcomed as a true winner in her town.

A few months later, we decided to send her to the Face of the Universe competition, a new pageant held in Ghana. Again, Mariana did quite well, finishing was 3rd runner-up and winning the best national costume award. Mariana was proud to say that she had the 4th most beautiful face in the world.

In 2007, the very talented pageant coach and state license-holder Alexandre Araújo invited Mariana to return to Miss World Brazil. This time she was fully sponsored, got proper coaching, and entered the contest as a front-runner. As Miss Sergipe World, Mariana did not disappoint her fans, and was, once again, a runner-up.

This time we sent her to Miss Bikini International, in China, which I had the opportunity to attend as well. Mariana won the ‘Best in Swimsuit’ award, and finished the competition in 6th place. Honestly speaking, as her national director, I was very mad with Miss Bikini’s results. She was clearly the favorite to win the title, or at least should’ve been in the top 3.

I remember that she left the backstage and came towards me in tears. I hugged her when she said: “Sorry Henrique, I didn’t win!”. My God, that broke my heart! I replied immediately that it was not her fault, and told her that she had been perfect on stage (and she did, indeed!). Then I joked: “Those judges might’ve been on drugs, don’t worry, you did really well and we are very proud of you”.

The next day we spent some 6 hours at the Shanghai’s airport, and we got a chance to talk a lot. Mariana is the kind of girl who says what she thinks, who’s not afraid of dreaming, and most importantly, of going after her dreams. She wanted to be a famous model and a journalist one day, and at that time, I knew nothing could stop that girl (God, I wish I was right…).

One thing I admire in Mariana is that fact that she does not take things for granted in her life. Still at the airport, she told me that visiting China and Hong Kong had been a dream come true for her. “How could I possibly do it if not for participating in the Miss Brazil pageant?”. She was surprised to see how modern and beautiful China was.

Those of us who follow beauty pageants from a close distance, know that this is not the rule. Several girls do nothing but complaining about waking up early, the ‘exotic food’, the fact that they are homesick, and the list goes on. Then, if they don’t do well, they complain about the judges, the organization, the winners! When it’s all over, they can barely say much about the country they visited, the new cultured they encountered, the people they had the opportunity to meet.

It’s great to see beauty contestants who are able to appreciate every bit of their experiences. Mariana certainly is one of them.

What is happening to her now has no logical explanation. Perhaps it’s part of her karma, or of the plans God has for her, nevertheless, it’s absolutely terrifying. She’s been bravely resisting death, and we couldn’t expect any less from her.

Several contestants who competed with her in 2006 and 2007 have been writing or calling us in complete shock and disbelief. If Mariana survives, they all want to put together a fashion show to raise funds to help her family buying mechanical hands and feet for Mari, so that she could continue on living with more comfort and autonomy.

Two weeks ago doctors gave Mariana 24 hours. She’s been resisting and beating the odds, just like she did in that Miss Brazil 2006, in Curitiba.

Whatever happens, Mariana is a true example of determination, persistence, and love for life. I hope her story inspires those who complain about so little, or who sit around waiting for things to happen.

Mariana has all our love and admiration, and the whole planet praying and rooting for her.