Miss Spain to make history as first transgender contestant on Miss Universe

Angela Ponce of Spain in the swimsuit competition during the 2018 Miss Universe pageant in Bangkok on Dec. 13. (Photo: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP)

In the wake of a Victoria’s Secret fashion show that many feel failed on the inclusivity front, Spain’s Angela Ponce is poised to make history as the first transgender woman to compete in Miss Universe. The program, which airs at 7 p.m. EST on Sunday from Bangkok, is a star-studded event that will feature Steve Harvey as onstage host, Ashley Graham backstage and Ne-Yo as the lead performer.

After earning title of Miss Spain in June, beating out 22 other competitors, Ponce told the Associated Press she hopes to use her platform to fight for better rights for transgender people. “If my going through all this contributes to the world moving a little step forward, then that’s a personal crown that will always accompany me,” said Ponce.

Ponce spoke with Time in late November, and shed light on the issues she’s faced as a transgender model. “The fashion industry likes to talk about freedom and creativity. But many times I’ve gone to a casting and they’ve given me the job, and then later my agency calls and says they’ve changed their minds, because they’ve found out I’m a trans woman,” said Ponce. “I would just burst into tears.”

She also addressed the controversy with Victoria’s Secret, in which an executive publicly stated that he wouldn’t cast transgender models in the brand’s main show. “I’d say that if trans women can’t walk in Victoria’s Secret shows, then they should put a sign on all their storefronts saying: No trans women,” Ponce told Time. “If they don’t want us to model for them, they shouldn’t want us to buy their products. That implies I’m just a man dressed as a woman.”

Miss Universe, a show formerly owned by President Trump, once held a ban on transgender contestants — which was officially lifted in 2012. Although Trump no longer owns it, Ponce said that winning Miss Universe would be hugely symbolic. “More than a message to [Trump], it would be a win for human rights,” Ponce told Time. “Trans women have been persecuted and erased for so long. If they give me the crown, it would show trans women are just as much women as cis women.”

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