Former Miss Venezuela's 'new look' tackles taboos

In a country obsessed by glamour, few women go without make-up, yet the Eva Ekvall who features in a new book of photos looks, in her own words, ''not pretty at all''.
The book, Fuera de Foco (Out of Focus), chronicles the former Miss Venezuela's battle with breast cancer, a gruelling eight-month regime of chemotherapy and radiation and a mastectomy. It has broken taboos about female beauty and moved breasts from the realm of aesthetics to that of health and disease.
''The pictures were very shocking because nobody had ever seen me that way. Nobody had seen me bald, without make-up,'' said 28-year-old Ekvall, who is now recovered. The Miss Universe finalist has become an outspoken advocate for a cancer awareness group, SenosAyuda, and is credited with a reported surge in women seeking breast examinations.
Ekvall was diagnosed with advanced cancer last February and finished treatment in October. She had noticed a lump months earlier but attributed it to her pregnancy. ''I was very angry [when diagnosed] because I should have known. My aunt had breast cancer twice and my grandmother died from breast cancer. I just let time go.''
Ekvall, crowned Miss Venezuela in 2000 and now a TV news anchor, said Venezuelan women rushed to get cosmetic surgery but needed encouragement to get mammograms. ''There's a huge taboo around breast cancer. But in this country people get their boobs done every day, so I don't understand how breast cancer can be a problem when everybody's showing their breasts.''
Her blunt and in some places breezy description of the disease, mastectomy and reconstructive surgery has made the book a bestseller. ''When I got sick and knew my breasts were sick, it's like I didn't want them any more. I wasn't fond of them. I was angry at them. So getting rid of them, even though it was horrible because I had all these scars, meant I felt better