This year’s Miss Universe pageant broke new ground on Sunday. Angela Ponce, the current reigning Miss Spain, became the first openly trans woman to compete in the pageant.
The Miss Universe pageant has faced controversy in the past for the previous disqualification of a trans woman, Jenna Talackova, in 2012 from the Miss Canada competition. After Talackova threatened to sue, the Miss Universe changed the rules to allow trans competitors. Talackova never made it all the way to the Miss Universe level of the competition.
Ponce explained her choice to compete in Miss Universe to Thomson Reuters, saying, “Trans women have been persecuted and erased for so long. I’m showing that trans women can be whatever they want. I am proud to have the opportunity to use this platform for a message of inclusion, tolerance, and respect for the LGBT+ community.”
Ponce did not win, but the crown wasn’t necessary to break barriers. For the talent portion of the competition, Ponce danced the flamenco, and her national costume was a beautiful bata de cola. In the end, 24-year-old Catriona Gray, Miss Philippines, won the 2018 Miss Universe crown. During the final moments of the pageant, however, Ponce was honored with a special video showing her assent to Miss Universe, and proclaiming her participation, “[a] walk to remember. A historic night for #MissUniverse.”
“None of us are obligated to be here. And for me, it’s a platform to share my voice,” Ponce old Today Style Magazine, “To me, feminism is freedom to do what you want, when you want to. We cannot put brakes on the freedom of women, on one platform or another.”