LGBTQ+ RIGHTS

Spain’s transgender beauty queen gets standing ovation at Miss Universe gala

Judges and the audience applauded Ángela Ponce for her personal struggle to break barriers despite a months-long barrage of criticism on social media

Ángela Ponce at the gala event in Bangkok.
Ángela Ponce at the gala event in Bangkok.LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP

The 2018 Miss Universe pageant held a particular relevance for Spain: for the first time in the history of the competition, there was a transgender contestant, Ángela Ponce, a native of Seville. The 27-year-old did not make it past the first round, which eliminated 74 out of the 94 contestants, but Ponce nevertheless received a heartfelt tribute from the judges and audience gathered inside the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand for the final round of the competition.

Angela Ponce

Ponce, who is an LGTBQ+ activist, became the center of attention when a pre-taped segment was broadcast showcasing key moments of Miss Spain’s life and efforts leading up to her participation in the beauty pageant, which was won by Catriona Gray of the Philippines.

Following the video, Miss Spain walked out on stage holding up her sash and received a standing ovation.

“I’ve always thought that dreaming is a very positive thing,” she was heard saying in the three-minute segment. A voice-over told the audience that “Ángela is changing history as the first transgender woman to compete in Miss Universe.” Despite the achievement, “inclusion is not complete,” added the narrator. A few months ago, Miss Colombia asserted that “the beauty competition is for women who were born women.”

“Many people don’t have information about what it is to be a transgender woman, to have that part of you telling you that your identity is female,” says Ponce in the video. “In order to eradicate intolerance, I think it is very important to teach those values from a young age. It is my hope that one day we will be able to live in an equal world for everybody.”

“Reality is going to change for many people, and if I can bring this to the world, I don’t need to win Miss Universe. I just need to be here,” she adds.

While Ponce’s claim to the Miss Spain throne raised very few eyebrows, things changed when she was named Spain’s Miss Universe candidate on June 29. Particularly in Latin America, where the beauty pageant has a strong following, Ponce was ridiculed and hounded on social media.

English version by Susana Urra.

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