Beauty contest celebrates Italy's alarming obsession with silicone

Research showed 14 per cent of 16- and 17-year-old Italian girls would undergo breast surgery

Italians attach rather less stigma than other nationalities to cosmetic surgery – as evidenced by the number of scarily enhanced 60-year-olds you see at the supermarket.

There's even a national beauty contest for ladies whose looks owe as much to the scalpel as Mother Nature.

And with the results just in for Miss Plastic Surgery 2012, step forward one Fanny Perini, whose exceptional false breasts trumped those of her competitors in the fourth annual contest held this week near Rimini.

Fanny, 5ft 11in, a Sagittarius, is a nurse from Bologna. She likes sports, particularly swimming, is single, and is probably kind to animals.

But it was the consummate boob job that won it for Ms Perini, 38, after the "expert panel" of plastic surgeons, journalists and "artists" saw rivals face off in a two-hour silicon-fest that culminated in the swimsuit and evening-wear competitions.

"I'm delighted to have won," she told the Adnkronos news agency. "I can't wait for my parents to see me on television."

Ms Perini revealed that she went under the knife for the sake of "bigger breasts and nipples as high as they were when I was 20". For her efforts, she won a Jacuzzi. For hopefuls who failed to scoop the main prize, there were consolation titles including Miss Rhinoplasty, Miss Silicone, Miss Botox and even Miss Chemical Peel. But many Italian health experts fear the nation's obsession with cosmetic correction is getting out of control. The popularity of cosmetic surgery is rising sharply, even among teenagers, who feel pressured to conform to old stereotypes.

In 2009, the Italian health ministry was forced to ban breast enhancement in girls under 18.

The then-Health Minister, Francesca Martini, declared there was a "Wild West, cowboy-style system of plastic surgery for young women and this must stop".

Research showed that 14 per cent of 16- and 17-year-old Italian girls said they would undergo breast enhancement surgery and 30 per cent reported feeling dissatisfied with their bodies.

Feminist commentators say the pressure has come right from the top. Prosecutors in Milan have accused former prime minister Silvo Berlusconi of paying for breast enlargements, buttock-shaping and lip-plumping for seven young women in his personal harem.

Yesterday the cosmetic surgery pageant's organiser, Elio Pari, sought to deflect criticism by stressing how inclusive the event was, with no age, height or weight limits.

Among the older competitors this year was 52-year-old Marcella from Cagliari, who has had 15 operations to reshape her breasts, face, stomach and thighs. "So far I've spent €60,000 [£47,000], but it's money well spent," she said.

"Despite my age I still look like I'm 30, and I'm proud of it. My motto is: 'As long as there's a surgeon there's hope'."

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