‘Señorita 89’ Explores Pageant World & Asks Tough Questions About Beauty Standards

Amaury Barrera courtesy of Pantaya.

For Mexican actress Ximena Romo (This is Not Berlin), Señorita 89, an upcoming, original Spanish-language series, is the kind of project she had been hoping to come across sometime in her career.

“As an actress – and as a woman – I’ve been looking for these kinds of stories and three-dimensional characters told from a feminine perspective,” Romo told Remezcla during a recent interview.

Set in the glamourous beauty pageant industry in Mexico during the 1980s, the drama follows a group of 32 pageant contestants brought together for a three-month-long training session to get them competition-ready for the Miss Mexico pageant. The training is held at La Encantada, a ranch owned by Concepción (Ilse Salas), the beauty contest’s matriarch.

On Señorita 89, which is set to debut on Pantaya on February 27, Romo plays Elena, a contestant tutor, who arrives at the ranch with her own agenda. Elena makes it a goal to be a “conduit of change” and show the women that they have a life beyond the beauty pageant world.

“When I read the first scenes, I was really blown away by the way it was written and the dialogue,” Romo said. “It’s not something common to find. The characters are so complex. The idea is to take beauty and question ourselves. What is behind [the idea of] beauty and what is behind the pageants and the power within them?”

Credit_ Amaury Barrera courtesy of Pantaya.
Read more

Mexican actor Juan Manuel Bernal (Monarca) said that starring in a series like Señorita 89 means that they get to talk about important issues that are relevant today, like the Me Too Movement. While the specific social movement wasn’t around in the 1980s, sexual abuse and sexual harassment were still occurring in the filmmaking and pageant industries.

“We’re living in new times, and we should talk about it,” Bernal told Remezcla. “Over time, it’s always been a topic that is in the shadows. I think now is the moment we need to fix it and talk about the relationships between men and women.”

If a series like Señorita 89 can get conversations started about critical social issues, Romo is all for it. Before she joined the cast on the show, she didn’t consider herself as part of the demographic that caters to pageant viewers. Now, however, her opinion has changed because of the experience she had telling these women’s stories.

“What’s the price of beauty, and what do we gain from it?”

“Before, I did have this sort of prejudice about the women and thought they were probably vain and superficial and maybe empty,” she said. “This project really opened up my vision and ideas about [pageants] and what really happens behind the scenes.”

Romo said that Señorita 89 had shown her what some women sometimes think they need to do to “get to a place of power” so they could succeed in their field. “Women are told that [beauty] is the only way to [get to] a certain place in their lives,” she said. “Now, I really do have a lot more respect and admiration for these women. It is a power struggle. It’s interesting to ask questions like, ‘What’s the price of beauty, and what do we gain from it?’”