Meet The Transgender Women Breaking Into The World's Top Beauty Pageants
After years of resistance, more and more major beauty pageants are selecting transgender women to compete. It's shaking up ideas about inclusivity, questioning the modern world’s beauty standards — and perhaps redefining gender itself.
Jenna Talackova’s selection to compete for Miss Universe Canada in 2012 was a watershed moment for both beauty pageants and transgender rights. Believed to be one of the first trans women to participate in a major beauty contest, Talackova won the title of Miss Congeniality, and many hoped it would pave the wave for more trans pageant contestants around the world.
It would take awhile, but just over a decade later, the revolution that Talackova sparked is finally gaining momentum. As Berlin-based Die Welt reports, Germany just announced that for the second year in a row, a trans woman has made the finals of its national pageant. Last week Miss Universe Puerto Rico said it will include its first openly transgender woman, all adding to a wave the past three years of top pageants opening up to trans contestants to compete.
Not surprisingly, there has been resistance. Last year, a U.S. judge rejected the appeal of Anita Green, a transgender woman, who had sued The Miss United States of America pageant for barring her from participating in the competition.
Meanwhile across the world, Miss Fabulous Laos 2022, a beauty pageant competition that allowed transgender women to participate, has been discontinued after the country’s ruling party banned transgender people from entering any beauty pageants.
Still, it seems as though the universe of women’s beauty pageants is reaching its transgender tipping point with more and more competitions opting for inclusivity, questioning the modern world’s beauty standards and redefining gender itself.
Here’s a look at some of the transgender women participating in beauty pageants around the world:
🇪🇸 Ángela Maria Ponce — Spain
In 2018, 26-year-old Ángela Maria Ponce became the first openly transgender woman to win Miss Universe Spain and the first transgender contestant of Miss Universe.
Since winning her title, Maria Ponce has modeled for top-end magazines, including Vogue Spain, and agencies. She has also worked to reduce stigma around LGBTQ+ people, saying that her mission since winning Miss Universe Spain has been to convey a message of “equality, respect and diversity”.
🇩🇪 Saskia von Bargen — Germany
Saskia von Bargen, a 19-year-old transgender woman from Lower Saxony, has been selected among the ten finalists for Miss Germany 2023. Last year, Gadou Amadou, a trans woman also from Lower Saxony, made it to the semi-finals.
🇺🇸 Brían Nguyen — United States
Brían Nguyen, a 19-year-old student, made Miss America history when she became the first transgender woman to win the Miss Greater Derry title, which allows her to compete for the title of Miss New Hampshire next year. She is the first transgender title holder within the Miss America Organization.
Her crowning sparked a backlash, with some criticizing “woke ideology”. This included 1998 Miss Great Britain winner Leilani Dowding, who wrote that young women today are not being given the same chances she had. In response, Nguyen started a social media movement #QueensAreEverywhere to help the next generation develop self-confidence.
🇵🇷 Daniela Arroyo González — Puerto Rico
In 2023, Daniela Arroyo González became the first openly transgender woman to compete in Miss Puerto Rico to represent her country in the Miss Universe contest. Miss Universe Puerto Rico made the announcement online.
“She wants to create positive changes within communications,” the contest’s Instagram post stated. “She longs to live in a less polarized society, where differences can be appreciated and embraced as something positive that unites instead of something that separates.”
Arroyo is also an activist. She is the co-founder of the Puerto Rico Trans Youth Coalition, a community-based organization that supports trans, intersex and non-binary youth.
🇿🇦 Lehlogonolo Machaba — South Africa
In 2021, 24-year-old Lehlogonolo Machaba was the first openly transgender woman to enter the Miss South Africa pageant. The following year she also qualified as one of the 30 participants.
🇺🇸 Kataluna Enriquez- United States
Twenty-seven-year-old beauty queen Kataluna Enriquez is the first openly transgender woman to be crowned Miss Nevada in 2021 and to compete in Miss USA.
🇫🇷 Andréa Furet- France
Last year, 20-year-old transgender actress Andréa Furet made history as the first openly non-cis candidate in the Miss France pageant. In an interview with Elle, Furet stated that she had dreamed of entering the Miss France competition even before her transition.
Furet is an actor by profession. She is the star of the film Il est elle (He is she), for which she received the award for best actress at the Festival des créations télévisuelles de Luchon.
🇳🇵Angel Lama- Nepal
In 2020, Angel Lama was the first transgender woman to be a finalist in the Miss Universe Nepal. In 2018, she was crowned Miss Pink Nepal, an LGBT+ pageant.
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