A model from Spain has made history by becoming the first transgender woman to compete in the Miss Universe competition.
It was announced in June this year that Angela Ponce would be one of the 94 participants in the competition, which took place this weekend, December 16, in Thailand.
The overall competition was won by Catriona Gray, from the Philippines. And though Angela didn’t nab the top spot, she believed simply being there as a transgender woman was just as important.
Speaking at the competition, the 27-year-old from Sevilla, said:
My hope is for tomorrow to be able to live in a world of equality for everyone, simply for us all to understand that we are human and we must make all our lives easier together.
If I can give that to the world, I don’t need to win Miss Universe, I only need to be here.
Get to know Miss Universe Spain 2018 and her journey to the crown.#MissUniverse airs LIVE Dec 16 at 7pm ET from Bangkok, Thailand only on @FOXtv. Who will take home the crown? pic.twitter.com/JplBvuBPs8
— Miss Universe (@MissUniverse) December 15, 2018
Angela became the first transgender Miss Universe contestant after winning the Spanish qualifying contest earlier this year.
Until 2012, the Miss Universe Organisation had a ban on transgender contestants. At a time when Donald Trump still owned the pageant, a Canadian model and television personality, Jenna Talackova, was barred from competing due to being transgender.
However, Talackova and her lawyer challenged the competition organisers, as well as Trump, to reverse the decision and allow her to compete. The challenge worked, and the organisation reversed its decision before it was taken to court.
Though Talackova didn’t win the competition overall, she paved the way for transgender models, and since then, all trans women have been allowed to compete.
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Que honor y orgullo poder ser parte de la historia de @missuniverse. Esto es por ustedes, por aquellos que no tienen visibilidad, ni voz, porque todos merecemos un mundo de respeto, inclusión y libertad. Y hoy estoy aquí, representando con orgullo a mi nación, a todas las mujeres y a los derechos humanos. • #missuniverse #missuniverso #confidentlybeautiful #thailand #bangkok #roadtomissuniverse #67thmissuniverse #angelaponce #spain #preliminar
Speaking about her participation in the competition, Angela told TIME:
More than a message to [Trump], it would be a win for human rights. Trans women have been persecuted and erased for so long. If they give me the crown, it would show trans women are just as much women as cis women.
Asked if she would compete if Trump was still the owner of the pageant, Angela said:
I would. I like to think that most people who don’t understand me, it’s not because they’re bad people. It’s because no one taught them about diversity. What you don’t talk about doesn’t exist—even though trans people have been here since there were people on earth.
"I'm here to eradicate the intolerance and to raise Equality for everyone, even if I will not win the title"
— Shawpejhay🌈 (@shawpejhay) December 17, 2018
Speaking about competing alongside and in front of other people who are from countries with ‘less progressive ideas about the trans community’, Angela replied:
I’m not trying to impose anything on anyone. I’d never try to change anyone’s culture or way of life. But by competing I’ll make trans people more visible for everyone, which is a big step. I’m not nervous. I’m excited.
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Y hoy, me visto de España ante el Universo 🇪🇸🌹 @voguethailand Gracias @luisfernandezdisenador @missuniverse #MissUniverse #67thMissUniverse #Bangkok #Thailand #AngelaPonce #MissUniverse2018 #MissUniverso #MissUniverso2018 #MissUniverseSpain #MissUniversoEspaña #Tailandia #ConfidentlyBeautiful #España #Spain
Despite not winning, Angela was praised by the hosts of the competition, who said she encapsulated ‘the attributes expected of a Miss Universe contestant’, as well as screening a special video montage in her honour, according to the Independent.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.