Secrets of a Miss Universe maker
Tonight 26-year-old Maiko Itai from Kyushu in southern Japan will compete with 82 others to be crowned Miss Universe 2010, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her story so far has seen her plucked from obscurity as a civil servant to become the newest face to represent Japanese beauty to the world, trained by Miss Universe Japan founder Ines Ligron who has achieved an unprecedented run of success, guiding Japan to one win, two runners-up and one semi-finalist in recent years.
So just how does she do it? What are the secrets to true beauty and what can be learned from Ines' techniques that can be applied to us all?
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CNNGo: What makes a Japanese girl beautiful?
Ines Ligron: I see a woman as beautiful and striking when she has class and smarts. So it depends first on the foundation provided by the family, as education is key to being beautiful.
I like Japanese women in general because at first they might seem to have been sleeping in terms of confidence, self-awareness, self visualization and self-promotion, but after I start working with them, they soon blossom!
There are lots of rules in Japan that make women too focused on how they are going to be perceived by others and possibly be criticized. I teach them to be mentally free, to be themselves, the best of what they can be. I teach them to keep this incredible value that is key in Japanese society: politeness and humbleness, but to be less shy.
I encourage them and compliment them on a regular basis because compliments are rare in Japan. Compliments are what makes a woman become attractive, because that helps her build her confidence. And with confidence, she can develop an attitude, and that’s what makes her attractive internationally, even in Japan.
CNNGo: You said in an interview that being in love with your husband makes you beautiful. Does love really make women more beautiful?
Ines Ligron: Being in love with my husband is invigorating because automatically my hormones are balanced and my skin and my hair look nicer. My mind is clear and my body feels sensual.
I can see when a model or a finalist falls in love, because she instantly looks more attractive, awake, sensual. Her body language is more languorous. She projects femininity. When I ask, they always say "Yes! How do you know?!"
Otherwise you can see this to a smaller extent when women are complimented, when they start to enjoy people's attention (or men for that matter). What is important is to be looked at, admired or even envied in a positive way.
CNNGo: Are there any specific hair and beauty tricks you can share from your experience with Miss Universe Japan pageants?
Ines Ligron: I like Japanese women with long straight hair, colored in a rich chocolate tone with some down-lights of three blended colors. I also like hair that moves. I dislike curls in general, unless they are big and glamorous and with a good volume in them. I like wigs too because you can play a lot with them -- they can change your look completely and I believe it is good to surprise people sometimes.
I often send Miss Universe Japan with a stylish wig to wear at the rehearsals because it’s fun and makes it very easy to change your style. I actually have three or more myself, long, short, dark...
In terms of the face, I personally like Japanese women with a slight sun-kissed tone, inside eyeliner and a little foundation that is definitely not white! I believe Japanese women should perfume themselves -- it is very sexy and classy at the same time.
CNNGo: How can a Miss Universe's fashion or style best reflect or accentuate their beauty?
Ines Ligron: Miss Universe Japan is always expected to wear the latest fashion from the top designers or from young up-and-coming Japanese fashion designers, and I like that because it can be frustrating that usually Japanese women avoid taking the risk to be flamboyant and play things too safe and conservative.
Fashion is art, and because Japanese girls tend to have a slimmer body they can wear everything so beautifully, it has been amazing for me to plan their wardrobe. Each time is different, because it depends on their personality at the moment to choose the right style.
Also each year has been different for me to prepare my "Miss" for Miss Universe. But for certain there has been a lot of Gucci, because it fits Japanese women very well and in fact tomorrow Maiko Itai will be wearing an evening gown from the Gucci 2010 spring summer collection.
CNNGo: How can everyone become more beautiful?
Ines Ligron: I am a deep believer that beauty comes from the inside. It's something that a woman develops, and polishes throughout the years.
It is a mix between intelligence, elegance, education and world awareness. Looks-only can become boring very quickly. I have met so many models, actresses or talents in my life, who were physically gorgeous, but because they had no attitude, had nothing to say, or demonstrated no class, I automatically knew that they could never succeed in life because their insides were empty. Sorry to say, but for me, a woman is like a house at night. If there is no light inside, it does not attract one to go in and visit!