Meet Miss Universe’s First Transgender Contestant Who Broke Barriers And Won Hearts

Meet Miss Universe’s First Transgender Contestant Who Broke Barriers And Won HeartsMeet Miss Universe’s First Transgender Contestant Who Broke Barriers And Won Hearts

First Miss Universe transgender contestant, Angela Ponce, carried a bold message of equality and inclusivity, and blazed through the competition to quickly become a top favourite

The Miss Universe pageant ended on a crackling note with the gorgeous Catriona Gray taking home the coveted title. The24-year-old Filipina impressed the crowd and the judges with her beauty and intelligence. But there was another girl who made her forever mark at the do and is being hailed as a winner in her own right: the first Miss Universe transgender contestant, Angela Ponce.  

The 27-year-old Miss Spain became the first transgender to ever compete in a Miss Universe pageant.

Carrying a bold message of equality and inclusivity, Miss Spain, Angela Ponce, blazed through the competition to quickly become a top favourite. And even though she didn't win the crown, she won millions of hearts.  

First Miss Universe Transgender Contestant Makes History 

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Ponce became the first Miss Universe transgender contestant in its 66-year-old history.

This, even though the pageant reversed its longstanding policy of only including participants who are "naturally born" women in 2012. However, no transgender ever took part.  

But this 27-year-old willowy beauty changed everything. She paved the way for a more inclusive contest.

Explaining her appeal to the media, the plain-speaking Miss Spain reportedly said, "I always say: having a vagina didn't transform me into a woman. I am a woman, already before birth, because my identity is here."

First Miss Universe Transgender Contestant: "I am a woman, already before birth"

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Ponce also explained why she takes issue with how the society tries to box people based on gender. 

"Outsiders say what I can and cannot do, what I am and what I am not,'" she told AFP.

"No, I'm sorry. To be a woman is your identity. It doesn't matter if you are white, black, if you have a vagina... if you have a penis," Ponce added. 

"You can empower yourself like I have"

The 27-year-old who back home, works with a Spanish foundation that helps children struggling with stigma (that of being transgender), is aware of the visibility she brings to the table. "You can empower yourself like I have and turn something negative into your biggest strength," she said.

"Children are born without prejudices and I think that if we talk to them about diversity from a young age... we can create a new generation of human beings who are raised a lot better, more tolerant and respectful," Ponce added. 

Talking about the fierce competition during these pageants, Ponce told Time, "None of the contestants are forced to be there. I’m competing because it’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl. I’m showing that trans women can be whatever they want to be: a teacher, a mother, a doctor, a politician and even Miss Universe."

"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," she told AFP.

Incidentally, its not just her philanthropic avatar that drew large crowds in her favour, but also her performance during the pageant. 

First Miss Universe Transgender Contestant Impresses One And All

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Even though Ponce did not make it to the final 20 or even the 'Wild Card,' her performance on-stage gave many participants a run for their money. From her exquisite portrayal of a flamenco dancer during the national costume portion, to her walk down the runway clad in a shimmery mermaid-style gown for the evening dress category, she was killing it on stage.

Naturally, people not only saw her performance as a huge plus for Spain, but her participation as a huge victory to the transgender community across the globe.  

Ponce, who first began to explore her gender identity at the age of 11, transitioned in April 2014. She hasn't looked back since, paving way for more transgender such as herself to make their mark in mainstream professions. In fact, many transgenders across the globe have come out in support of Ponce.

Famous Transgenders Come Out In Support Of Ponce

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  A post shared by Janlee Dungca (@janleedungca) on

Filipino counsellor at LoveYourself Inc and PR director of Castro Communications, Janlee Dungca congratulated both, fellow Filipina Gray, and fellow transgender Ponce.

"Congratulations my two beautiful queens- Angela and Catriona!!!" she wrote in a Facebook post

Dungca who is also a foremost LGBTQ activist in the Philippines spoke to HerStyleAsia about Ponce's participation and had this to say: "Angela Ponce joining Miss Universe 2018 as the first ever transgender contestant in the pageant’s history will definitely forward visibility for and hopefully understanding on transgender women all over the world. She may have received a lot of hate and disapproval from the public but her mere presence in the Miss Universe pageant will help raise awareness on the transgender experience, especially to those who are ignorant about it."

"I was very touched that the Miss Universe Organization highlighted her candidacy and shared her experiences and her thoughts on, and her intentions for joining. She joined for representation, for understanding, for diversity, and hopefully for acceptance. It was very moving. As Angela said, she didn’t need to win Miss Universe. She only needed to be a part of it. I am very proud of Angela. Apart from Catriona, she is my Miss Universe," says Dungca. 

Transgender Models Support Ponce, Too

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HerStyleAsia also spoke to Martine Tuanquin, famous Filipino transgender model who shared, "For me, I truly think its a big milestone for the trans community. She is a woman through and through despite what other people say. All transwomen are." 

"I am so happy how Miss Universe has gotten more and more progressive over the years."

"To all the haters and naysayers out there, I think this is the best time to ask themselves why they even support Miss Universe in the first place. After all, it is an institution that has proven itself to live up to its brand of unbiased love, beauty and acceptance. I just hope that in time, people will not only support it due to the celebrity it brings but also because of its core values," she added. 

Why Ponce's Participation Will Pave Way For More Inclusivity 

There were many like Dungca who openly supported, cheered on and voted from Miss Spain. And this is not just a huge step in advocating equality, but also of being more accepting of people.  

We at HSA believe that her participation is a key message to those who often place people in boxes and want them to stay there because they themselves are too afraid of what change might do.

We support Ponce and will continue to support all those who fight for equality and inclusivity and encourage others to be more, want more, and aspire more.  

Also read:Team Asia At Miss Universe 2018: The Bold, The Beautiful, And The Bizarre

(All images courtesy: Instagram)

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Written by

Deepshikha Punj