LIFE

Miss Spain Made History In This Year’s Miss Universe As The Pageant’s 1st Transgender Contestant

by Kim Wong-Shing
Kim Wong-Shing is a staff writer at LittleThings. Her work spans beauty, wellness, pop culture, identity, food, and other topics. She is a contributing writer at NaturallyCurly, and her work has also appeared in HelloGiggles, Lifehacker, Wear Your Voice Magazine, and other outlets. She grew up in Philadelphia, attended Brown University, and is now based in New Orleans.

Angela Ponce just made history as the first openly transgender contestant to compete in the Miss Universe pageant.

This year’s Miss Universe pageant took place on Sunday in Bangkok, Thailand. Angela Ponce, a 27-year-old trans woman from Seville, Spain, competed as the reigning Miss Spain. Although she didn’t make it to the top 20, her presence at the competition was a historic moment that had many viewers downright emotional.

“This is for you, for those who have no visibility, no voice, because we all deserve a world of respect, inclusion and freedom,” Angela wrote on Friday.

Until Angela, no trans woman had ever before competed in the worldwide pageant. In 2012, the Miss Universe organization attempted to disqualify a trans contestant from the Miss Universe Canada competition. Clearly, it has come a long way since then. This year, the organization even honored Angela’s history-making moment with a special segment.

As for Angela, she doesn’t seem to mind that she didn’t win. She said it best:

“I don’t need to win Miss Universe. I only need to be here.”

On Sunday, contestants from all over the world competed to win the title of Miss Universe 2018.

Among them was Angela Ponce, a 27-year-old trans woman from Seville, Spain.

Angela is the first trans woman to ever compete in the Miss Universe pageant.

She wore a traditional Spanish bata de cola dress and spoke proudly about her passion for flamenco dancing.

“This is an iconic piece in Spain, also known all over the world,” Angela explained on Instagram. “It is a precious reference of my country.”

Angela has been dancing flamenco since she was 6. She told Miss Universe organizers that, for a long time, her dream was simply to perform while wearing a flamenco dress.

Little did she know that she’d end up wearing that dress in front of the entire world.

Angela didn’t make it to the top 20. Nonetheless, the organization honored her with a special segment.

She walked down the runway while holding her sash and received a standing ovation from the crowd.

“A walk to remember,” Miss Universe tweeted alongside a video of Angela. “A historic night for #MissUniverse.”

Miss Universe hasn’t always been so welcoming to trans women. In 2012, the organization attempted to disqualify Jenna Talackova from the Miss Universe Canada pageant because she was not “naturally born” a woman.

Jenna threatened legal action, and the organization changed the rules to allow trans contestants.

Six years later, Angela became the first to make it all the way to Miss Universe.

She says she hopes to use the platform to “share [her] voice,” give others hope, and represent her culture to the world.

“I feel like it’s an incredible thing because I’m able to give voice to so many people and reach so many people in the world,” Angela told Today. “I believe that my part in Miss Universe is to save lives.”

In a world where a startling number of trans teenagers have attempted suicide, representation and visibility from women like Angela can literally do just that.

As an openly trans woman in Spain, Angela is far too aware of the struggles that young trans people face. She says there have been “many times” when she wanted to just give up.

But luckily, Angela’s family understood and embraced her.

“I always had the support of my family and they’re my foundation so that my life could unfold,” Angela said. “They saw to it that I did not have a traumatic childhood. They are my strength.”

Her positive impact on the world has already been made clear, just days after the Miss Universe competition.

Angela now has over 630,000 admiring followers on Instagram. Many viewers took to social media to express how emotional it felt to watch her special moment.

Angela’s words about competing in the pageant were particularly moving.

“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,” Angela said. “If I can give that to the world, I don’t need to win Miss Universe. I only need to be here.”

Angela’s mission at Miss Universe was about so much more than winning.

And she definitely did what she set out to do.