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Miss Spain Angela Ponce: the transgender beauty who made Miss Universe history

  • Miss Spain’s Angela Ponce was the first transgender contestant in Miss Universe’s 66-year history
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2018, 11:13am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2018, 11:13am

Angela Ponce, better known as the reigning Miss Spain, didn’t win this week’s Miss Universe pageant.

But she didn’t seem to mind.

Simply by representing her country this year, Ponce became the first transgender woman to compete in Miss Universe. After the preliminary rounds, the 27-year-old model said it was “an honour and pride” to be part of the history of the pageant.

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

“And today I am here, proudly representing my nation, all women and human rights.”

Though Miss Universe – and other beauty pageants – have undergone scrutiny (and changes) in recent years to avoid objectifying women, Ponce said she embraced the competition as a chance to fulfil not only her personal ambitions but to be an ambassador for Spanish culture.

For her national costume, she donned a traditional Spanish “bata de cola”.

“This is an iconic piece in Spain, also known all over the world,” Ponce explained on Instagram.

“It is a precious reference of my country.”

For the talent portion, Ponce danced the flamenco, something she said she had been doing since she was 6 years old. For the longest time, her dream was merely to perform the dance while wearing a flamenco dress. That didn’t happen until she was 17 years old.

“For a long time those were things I always wanted to do,” Ponce told Miss Universe organisers.

“I put so much focus into it, that in the end, it became a reality.”

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She smiled and motioned to herself, as if to emphasise: she wasn’t just dancing the flamenco in a dress now. She was doing it in a dress at Miss Universe.

“None of us are obligated to be here. And for me, it’s a platform to share my voice,” she told Today Style.

“To me, feminism is freedom to do what you want, when you want to. We cannot put brakes on the freedom of women, on one platform or another.”

The pageant seemed to embrace her, too, tweeting video of Ponce entering the stage with the caption: “A walk to remember. A historic night for #MissUniverse.”

It was a sharp change for the Miss Universe organisation, which was criticised in 2012 after disqualifying transgender woman Jenna Talackova from the Miss Canada competition that year because she was not “naturally born” a woman.

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After Talackova threatened legal action, the organisation – then owned by Donald Trump – changed the rules to allow transgender contestants in its pageants.

“As long as she meets the standards of legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, which we understand that she does, Jenna Talackova is free to compete in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada pageant,” Trump lawyer Michael Cohen said at the time.

“Nobody is capitulating . . . Like all the other contestants, [Talackova] is wished the best of luck by Mr Trump.”

Talackova ultimately finished in the top 12 of the Miss Canada pageant and was one of four contestants awarded “Miss Congeniality”.

She did not advance to the Miss Universe pageant that year.

Fast-forward six years.

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Ponce, who is from Pilas in southern Spain, acknowledged that it had been difficult at times to live as a woman “in a society where everyone said I couldn’t do that” – but credited her family for supporting her.

“They’re my foundation so that my life could unfold,” Ponce told Today.com.

“They saw to it that I did not have a traumatic childhood. They are my strength.”

The final portions of the Miss Universe pageant were broadcast live Monday. Miss Philippines, 24-year-old Catriona Gray, was crowned the 2018 winner.