Spanish transgender beauty queen is the surprise front-runner for this year's Miss Universe
Beauty pageants tend to polarise. While some see them as harmless fun, others believe they only serve to objectify women, and reinforce the impossible beauty standards that society heralds. In recent years, however, more and more contestants are using the platform to draw attention to the political and social issues they hold close to their hearts.
Case in point: this year, the Miss Universe competitor for Spain is trans woman, Angela Ponce, who is hoping to win the contest to highlight LGBT+ issues. Ponce is the first transgender contestant in the pageant's 66-year history, and the first ever trans woman to be crowned Miss Spain.
She's currently in Bangkok, Thailand - where the competition is taking place this year - and some online bookmakers have made her the odds-on front-runner for the December 17th contest.
"I’m competing because it’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl," Ponce asserted in a recent interview with Time magazine. "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... 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."
"At school, no one knew what to make of me," she continued. "It was hard. But school is like that for many people: other kids got picked on for their weight or because they wore glasses. Spain is actually a leader on gender issues; we’re one of the best countries in the world in terms of female representation at the top of politics. But there’s a way to go: transgender people still don’t have a legal right to their identity until they’re 18."
Ponce - who first identified as female aged three - previously represented Cadiz in the 2014 Miss World Spain contest, but ultimately lost the crown to Miss Barcelona, Mireia Lalaguna, who won the top prize.
The contestant boasts a significant social media following, with over 453,000 followers on Instagram. After winning the Miss Universe pageant in Spain back in June, Ponce took to the social media platform to write:
"Bringing the name and colours of Spain before the universe is my great dream. My goal is to be a spokesperson for a message of inclusion, respect and diversity not only for the LGBTQ+ community but also for the entire world."
The Miss Universe contest previously prohibited transgender women from entering the competition. This all changed in 2012, however, when transgender model, Jenna Talackova, sued Miss Universe Canada organisers for initially disqualifying her on discriminatory grounds.
The winner will be declared on the 17th December.
Best of luck, Angela!