This story is over 5 years old.


An Ecuadorian Beauty Queen Died Having the Plastic Surgery She Won as a Pageant Prize

According to her brother, she didn't even want the procedure and only agreed to it after the surgeon kept badgering her to come in for the operation.

A 19-year-old Ecuadorian beauty queen named Catherine Cando died while receiving liposuction on Saturday. The procedure was one of the prizes she was awarded for winning a beauty pageant in Durán, a canton in Guayas, Ecuador.

Cando died on the operating table, but it's not exactly clear how. Staff at the clinic told her family that she died of cardiac arrest, while their lawyer was told it was a brain edema. Further confusing things, her death certificate suggests she died of hypovolemic shock—a condition that only occurs after the body has lost at least a fifth of its blood. Whatever the case, the family has filed a complaint for malpractice and the surgeon responsible has been arrested for what is presumed to be negligence.


Plastic surgery is big in South America—so big that even women who win contests for their beauty are awarded with surgical cosmetic procedures. In fact, Brazil and Colombia lead the world in the industry. And all that demand for nipping and tucking has led to the emergence of shoddy surgeons, who compromise the quality of their operations in order to offer them at a lower price. Several years ago, Brazilian model Pamela Nascimento died from a liver hemorrhage during liposuction (it's believed that the surgeon accidentally punctured her liver during the procedure); and just last month, Brazilian beauty queen Andressa Urach was put in intensive care after her thigh injections eroded her legs, leaving them with gaping pus-filled holes.

Stories like these, of plastic surgery gone wrong, are often tinged with accusatory, pitying comments about how the women were " vain" or "obsessed with her looks." She died for beauty! they say, misplacing the blame from the surgeon to the woman on the operating table. Killed by her own vanity!

But it wasn't like that for Cando. In an interview from a few days after she won the Reina de Durán pageant, a reporter asked what she planned to do with her plastic surgery prize. She told him that she didn't plan on using it, since she couldn't think of anything she needed done. The reporter pressed her about it. "Maybe implants?" he suggested. Cando said no: "I don't need it."

The pageant judges had also prodded her to get plastic surgery, noting that she could "lose a little weight" during the swimsuit portion of the competition. Her brother, Daniel Zavala, said that Cando was reluctant to have anything done and had initially considered giving the surgery credit to someone who would've put it to better use. But Zavala said the surgeon kept calling and calling her, trying to persuade her to come in for liposuction. "Eventually she agreed to have it just to get him off her back," he told local Spanish media.

When Cando won her crown, she said in a speech: "I want Ecuador to know that the women in my country are not only beautiful, but intelligent." Let's hope she will be remembered that way, and that beauty pageants in the future will think twice before pressuring their winners into going under the knife.

Follow Arielle Pardes on Twitter.