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Who was the first transgender to participate in Miss Universe pageant? Exploring their journey and where they are now


Beauty Pageants’ are nothing new. They have been going on for ages, in almost every corner of the world. Many avidly follow such events and consider them a significant cultural cornerstone. Others consider these pageants archaic and somewhat disturbing as they see these events propagating an unhealthy body image among the audience.

Sometimes though, beauty contests can also become a big contributor to the betterment of a particular community, especially one that has been as marginalized as the transgender community. In 2018, Angela Ponce became the first transgender woman to represent her community at the global level at an event like the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant. 

Angela Ponce made history for trans representation at Miss Universe Beauty Pageant

In 2018, Angela Ponce registered her name in the history books with her selection in the Miss Universe lineup for that year. Although beauty pageants are held every year or so without being of much note particularly due to the monotonous nature of these shows, the one that was held in 2018 was extraordinary as it saw the beauty contest pioneer a new era for themselves and beauty enthusiasts around the world.

It all started with Angela beating some 20-odd contestants for the title of Miss Spain in the same year. This in itself was historical as no other trans women had won such a title in their lifetime.

The incident allowed her to be a part of history in the making as she was selected for the Miss Universe title. 

“If my going through all this contributes to the world moving a little step forward, then that’s a personal crown that will always accompany me,” Angela Ponce told Associated Press at the time of her victory.

This victory helped her as well as the concerned authorities to usher in an era in the Entertainment industry that saw everyone as equals and allowed for the representation of a marginalized community at the global level.

Angela’s story of being a trans person, coming from a loving and supportive family who helped her in achieving such success was not just a major inspiration for children growing up as transgender in the world but for the beauty contests in general as well. But it was not an easy road for Angela, as despite her innate skills and understanding she had to prove herself over and over again to grab that coveted spot in the history books.

“To be the best is not an option, is a must” was Angela’s motto to herself to achieve unprecedented success in the field and give her community a global platform.

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History to be made in Miss Universe 2023?

The world has come a long way since 2012, when Jenna Talackova was banned from participating in her local Miss Canada beauty pageant as a trans contestant. The organization which was then led by former US President Donald Trump has seen significant changes since then.

In 2018, the world got its first Transgender contestant on the biggest stage of beauty content. In 2023, this history may be extended to include the first trans winner of the event as well. Now, Miss Netherlands 2023 Rikkie Kollé and Miss Portugal 2023 Marina Machete may be on their way to creating history as the first trans winners of the Miss Universe contest, after the incredible achievements of Angela Ponce, who later went on to collaborate with Dior and Pantene, marking an incredible career.

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Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.