Prominently known for his excellence in advertising, Sousa has been called "The Tsar of Beauty" or Impresario for his significant role in producing Venezuela's large number of beauty queens.
Osmel Sousa was born in Rodas, a town in the province of Cienfuegos in Cuba. When he was thirteen, his family sent him to live with his grandmother in Maracaibo, Venezuela. After high school he studied with Horacio Peterson's acting company with Lupita Ferrer, Miguel Ángel Landa and Luis Abreu, but quickly realized that he was not cut out to be an actor. He then briefly held jobs as an advertising draftsman and art designer for the two large television networks in Venezuela, the state owned VTV and the cable network RCTV.
In 1969 Osmel Sousa went to work for the publicity company in charge of organizing the annual Miss Venezuela contest. He was assigned to work with the Venezuelan Committee of Beauty. Sousa continued working with that committee when, in 1970, Ignacio Font Coll reconstituted it as the OPPA Advertising Agency, which in turn was the predecessor of the actual Miss Venezuela Organization.
In the 1970s, Osmel Sousa undertook advising selected contestants, many of whom went on to win the Miss Venezuela crown, at the same time he started designing nightgowns for most of the contestants. His first success was María Antonieta Cámpoli, who became Miss Venezuela in 1972, and went on to be 2nd runner-up in the Miss Universe contest.
In October 1981 Ignacio Font Coll died and Osmel Sousa became the president of the Miss Venezuela Organization. During his thirty-year career he has been considered to be the driving force behind the large number of Miss Venezuelas who go on to become Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss International and Miss Earth.
Sousa has been called a Pygmalion, an artist who turns out talented and beautiful young women. To date, Venezuela has had seven Miss Universe titleholders, six Miss World winners, seven Miss International crowns, and two wins in Miss Earth, becoming the most successful pageant powerhouse in history.
In a 1997 interview with Latina magazine, Sousa described his bias against contestants with African features with the following controversial statement:
"Black Venezuelan women are not very beautiful...Their noses are too big--no one could operate on them! Occasionally, I choose a morenita, but she has to have a white girl's features--just painted dark."
In 2007, Sousa joined with Lupita Jones, a former Miss Universe (1991), and Carlos Calderón, emcee of "El Gordo y La Flaca", in judging Univision's Hispanic beauty contest Nuestra Belleza Latina.
Osmel Sousa has been involved in a number of controversies over the years, with everything from whether the color and style of dress that he picked was appropriate, to whether or not he advised plastic surgery for a particular contestant to the charge that he creates "fashion mannequins". In 1979 Maritza Sayalero was the first contestant to admit that she'd had plastic surgery. He certainly changed the way that the Miss Venezuela contestants achieved success and through them he changed the international beauty scene as well. But it's not just the contests that have changed. Sousa also changed public attitudes. In Venezuela and other countries plastic surgery received much more general acceptance and even became fashionable.
In recent years, Sousa has been also involved in several controversies related to same-sex marriage in Venezuela, by saying he's not only against it, but also against child adoption by same sex parents. He also has said in many occasions he was estranged by his parents, and consequently sent to Venezuela when he was only a teenager, and even put him on hormonal treatment to make him "manlier" due to his sexual orientation.