Since its earlier days, the Miss Universe Pageant has undergone significant transformations. It was once rigidly bound by rules that prevented mothers, wives, and any woman over the age of 28 from participating in the competition. However, the pageant has embraced inclusivity, now allowing transgender contestants to shine on its stage. While the journey towards acceptance has not been without its challenges, the participation of trans beauty queens is a testament to progress.
In 2012, the Miss Universe pageant, now owned and operated by transgender woman Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip, announced that openly transgender women who had won their national titles were eligible to compete. This groundbreaking decision opened doors for individuals like Spain’s Angela Ponce, who made history in 2018 as the first-ever trans contestant in Miss Universe.
Ponce, speaking with Time magazine ahead of the competition, expressed her motivation for participating, saying, “I’m competing because it’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl. I’m showing that trans women can be whatever they want to be: a teacher, a mother, a doctor, a politician, and even Miss Universe.” While acknowledging the concerns of more traditional audience members, Ponce emphasized that her intention was not to impose anything on anyone but to foster visibility and acceptance for the transgender community.
Although Ponce did not advance to the finals, her participation paved the way for other members of the LGBTQ+ community in the pageant. As attitudes toward gender identity continue to evolve globally, countries are revising their qualifications for national pageants. With the exception of Italy, which still maintains a ban on trans contestants, many nations are embracing inclusivity. Miss Portugal, Marina Machete, and Miss Netherlands, Rikkie Valerie Kollé, made history as the first transgender women to win their national titles.
In November 2023, Machete and Kollé proudly competed alongside 82 other contestants in the 72nd Miss Universe pageant held in El Salvador. Machete achieved another milestone by becoming the first trans woman to reach the top 20. Reflecting on her experience in an essay published by Business Insider, she expressed joy for the positive impact her journey had on young girls and women who were witnessing a broader representation of beauty on a global platform like Miss Universe.
Machete acknowledged that she faced negative and hateful messages but chose to focus on the overwhelming support she received from her community and fans. The positive comments and encouragement on her social media uplifted her spirits, reinforcing the importance of celebrating diversity and inspiring others.
Just weeks before the November 2023 pageant, Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip, the Thai media mogul who operates Miss Universe under JKN Global Group, faced bankruptcy. Despite financial challenges, her commitment to inclusivity remained steadfast. Under JKN’s leadership, the pageant had already expanded its eligibility criteria to allow wives and mothers to participate as of 2023. Furthermore, in 2024, Miss Universe will eliminate its age limit, welcoming women over the age of 28.
While some critics argue that allowing transgender women to compete in women’s events devalues the concept, the overwhelming support and praise from the general population highlight the positive impact of inclusivity. Fans from around the world applaud the bravery and inspiration of contestants like Machete and recognize their contribution to reshaping notions of beauty and acceptance.
The progress made by the Miss Universe Pageant in embracing transgender contestants reflects a world that is becoming more compassionate, inclusive, and understanding. It is a reminder that beauty transcends conventional boundaries, and everyone deserves an equal chance to showcase their talents and dreams. As we continue to evolve, let us celebrate the courage and achievements of all individuals, regardless of their gender identity.
‘Devaluing the Woman’: Misguided Remarks
In the wake of Machete’s victory, several individuals took the opportunity to express their misguided criticisms of the contestants. One person criticized the pageant organizers in Portugal, questioning the purpose of an all-female competition that included transgender women. However, Machete’s supporters swiftly defended the pageant’s decision, emphasizing the importance of inclusion and celebrating diverse forms of beauty.
It is crucial not to let these hateful comments overshadow the overwhelming support and love that Machete received. Numerous fans expressed admiration and gratitude for her representation, highlighting her role as an inspiration for individuals worldwide.
Regardless of the negativity, Machete and other transgender contestants continue to make a positive impact on society. Their participation in Miss Universe and other women’s events challenges stereotypes and fosters a more inclusive understanding of beauty and womanhood.
Embracing Love and Gratitude
Rather than dwelling on the negative, Machete and her supporters choose to focus on the immense outpouring of love and encouragement she receives from the global community. Social media platforms abound with comments praising Machete’s beauty, strength, and role as a symbol of inspiration.
Fans hail her as a queen who represents not only her country but also the universal community, filling it with pride and tears of joy. Many find her story and journey to be a source of personal inspiration, affirming the transformative power of visibility and acceptance.
A Challenging Path Forward
In early 2023, Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip, the visionary behind the inclusive direction of Miss Universe, faced financial difficulties as JKN Global Group, the organization she owned, filed for bankruptcy. Despite this setback, Jakapong’s dedication to promoting inclusivity and creating opportunities for diverse women remains resolute.
While the future may hold uncertainties for the pageant, the progress that has been made serves as a reminder that change is possible. The evolving landscape of Miss Universe demonstrates the power of breaking barriers and embracing inclusion, offering hope for a future where all individuals, regardless of their background, can celebrate their beauty and dreams on a global stage.
If you enjoyed this story, make sure you check out the one about a trans woman competing against women in sports.