On December 17, Miss Universe contestant Angela Ponce will be competing for more than one crown. Spain’s Ponce has become the first transgender woman to participate in the Miss Universe pageant. With this, she is all set to make history at Miss Universe in Bangkok, Thailand, this month. The 27-year-old model and activist beat 22 other Spanish women five months ago to be crowned Miss Spain 2018.

Ponce hopes to draw attention to high rates of suicide

The Miss Universe platform holds immense significance for Ponce. In an interview before leaving for Bangkok, she voiced that suicide is a reality among young people, and that the highest rate prevails among transgender teenagers.

“As I always say, and I won’t get tired of repeating, an education based on respect — respect for all human beings — is urgently needed. When this education exists, we won’t have to talk about this topic anymore.”

She has, on many occasions, voiced her concern over the harassment that compels people to end their lives. Ponce’s efforts to prevent suicide among differently born people, she believes, will bear further fruit if she wins the pageant. “Human lives are lost every day as a direct consequence of the harassment that many suffer, all because [they] are born different from what most of society expects.

This historic move comes six years after the Miss Universe pageant organisation opened up the competition to transgender participation

In June, Ponce won the Miss Universe Spain title, a preliminary pageant for the coveted Miss Universe competition. Her win marked a historic moment in the world of pageantry as she became the first transgender woman ever to compete for the Miss Universe crown.
In 2012, the pageant opened up the competition to transgender people following the controversy of a Miss Canada Universe contestant, as they banned her for not being a “naturally born” female, as per their criteria.
Ponce works with Fundación Daniela, a non-profit organisation for transgender children and adolescents. In an interview to a magazine, Ponce said she “already feels like a winner as she is able to represent her community on a stage that has viewership from all over the world”.

View this post on Instagram

On my way… Next stop Bangkok! 🇪🇸👑♥️ #MissUniverse #MissUniverso • 👗 @charoazcona

A post shared by ANGELA PONCE (@angelaponceofficial) on

The Transgender community has been fighting for its rights for decades. It’s only now that the world is acknowledging their presence and making them as much a part as others. In November, the Victoria’s Secret CMO had said he wouldn’t want transgender models in the lingerie brand’s flagship show. While he apologised later, these statements only go on to show how there’s still a stigma attached to this community.

Current US President Donald Trump, who was also the former owner of Miss Universe, didn’t allow transgender contestants until 2012. He has also, at several occasions, threatened trans rights since becoming President.

On Motherhood

Ponce sees motherhood as far more than just having ovaries. “The orphanages are full of children waiting to be adopted and I can be a mother like anyone else,” she said in one of her media interactions.

Overcoming backlash

Since her win in June, Ponce has been the topic of anti-trans media reports throughout Latin America. Certain sections of the media also went to the extent of showing her childhood photos, as well as photos of her without makeup. Numerous television programs have debated whether or not she’s truly a woman. Several Twitter users have been sharing memes questioning Ponce’s femininity and her right to compete in the pageant.

What’s disturbing is that Ponce’s fellow Miss Universe contestants have also made comments about her to the press. ‘I believe that a beauty pageant like Miss Universe is for women who are born women,’ said Valeria Morales, Miss Colombia. However, this Spanish contestant has risen above all backlash and vague criticism, and is marching ahead with utmost condition.

Ponce’s participation and acceptance in this pageant is scripting history in more ways than one. Her participation will not only empower her to erase the stigma surrounding transgender people, but will also give hope to countless others to stand up for themselves.

Featured image credit: Angela Ponce’s Instagram

More stories by Bhawana

Email us at connect@shethepeople.tv