After 23-year-old flight attendant Marina Machete was crowned Miss Portugal last week, the Miss Universe competition this year will include at least two trans women for the first time.
Alongside Rikkie Kollé, who in July became the first transgender Miss Netherlands winner, Machete will fight for the title at the 72nd Miss Universe pageant in El Salvador this November.
Machete discussed trans rights as part of her platform in a video that was uploaded to the Portuguese pageant’s YouTube channel before the event, calling the global rise in “transphobia and intolerance” “alarming.” She continued by stating how “heartwarming” it was to witness the Miss Universe Organisation, which has altered its policies in order to accept trans contenders, being inclusive and “breaking boundaries.”
“As a trans woman I’ve been through many obstacles along the way, but fortunately, and especially with my family, love proved to be stronger than ignorance,” she said in the video.
The first transgender woman will don the tiara if either contender prevails. The first transgender candidate, ngela Ponce of Spain, entered the pageant in 2018, although she was unable to proceed to the finals.
Neither Machete nor Miss Portugal’s organizers responded to requests for interview, though in a statement to CNN the Miss Universe Organization said: “Trans women are women, full stop. We are here to celebrate women, full stop. This has been true for more than a decade, and we’re proud to have made this change very early on, compared to other programs.”
One of the most popular beauty pageants in the world, Miss Universe, has had to respond to cries for increased inclusivity, diversity, and representation during the previous ten years.
After Jenna Talackova, a trans competitor in the Miss Universe Canada national pageant, was informed by organisers that she would be disqualified because she had received gender-affirming surgery and so could not match qualifications for the pageant, the group decided to suspend its prohibition on transgender contestants. At the time, officials of Miss Universe stated that the modification was made despite the threat of legal action made by a lawyer representing Talackova, not as a result of it.
Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip, the star of Thai versions of reality shows like “Project Runway,” a media tycoon and campaigner for transgender rights, purchased the Miss Universe Organisation in 2022 for $20 million. Jakrajutatip, who is also the CEO of the media distribution business JKN Global Group in Thailand, has spoken openly about her experiences as a trans woman.
The Miss Universe Organisation claimed it is “always evolving” and updating entry rules in a statement. It added that in the last two years married and divorced women, pregnant women, and women with children have been permitted to join. The organisers are also removing the entrance age limit of 28 and younger in 2024.
The statement continued, “Starting next year, every adult woman in the world will be eligible to compete to be Miss Universe.”
Both Machete and Kollé have made use of their platforms to advance a more diverse interpretation of beauty pageants and inspire others.
In addition to evening gown and swimwear competitions, Miss Universe, which has been operating since 1952, awards points to contestants based on their personal statements and in-depth interviews. This year, the pageant will feature approximately 90 contestants from all across the world. Almost all of the finalists have now been chosen, although a few nations, including China, have not yet confirmed who would represent them.
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