Late last month history was made in Bangkok, Thailand, when the world’s first transgender woman competed in the International Miss Universe contest.
Angela Ponce, 27 captured the Miss Spain Universe title earlier in June, 2018.
While she didn’t end up among the 20 finalists, she still broke the transgender glass ceiling by making it to the international competition.
“I never imagined (I would make it to Miss Universe) because I lived in a society where everyone said I couldn’t do that,” Ponce told NBC’s “Today” through a translator. “And I didn’t have the information to realize that my dream to be a woman could ever actually be realized.”
Ponce was born Angel Mario Ponce Camacho in Pilas, Spain, on Jan. 18, 1991.
She competed in her first beauty contest in 2015, representing Cadiz in Miss Spain Universe. However, she didn’t place. As a former contestant, she was allowed to vie for the Miss Spain title directly in 2018.
After capturing the crown, she told the Spanish press: “If my going through all of this contributes to the world moving a little step forward, then that’s a personal crown that will always accompany me.”
That win placed her on the path to the international competition in Bangkok.
Her achievement doesn’t come without a touch of irony: the Miss Universe Pageant was previously owned by Donald Trump, who as the current acting president, has attempted to ban transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military.
Trump apparently felt differently in 2012, when the Miss Universe Canada pageant rejected transgender woman Jenna Talackova because she was not a “naturally born” female. Talackova threatened legal action, and the organization — then owned by Trump — relented and changed the rules to allow transgender women to compete.
Trump’s office issued the following statement: “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.”
Talackova did compete, but ultimately did not capture the Canadian title, which prevented her from taking part in the in the international competition.
Although Ponce made it to the official Miss Universe pageant but didn’t wind up in the final top 20, she was still elated at her historic achievement.
“This is for you, for those who have no visibility, no voice, because we all deserve a world of respect, inclusion and freedom,” Ponce posted on Instagram . “And I am here, proudly representing my nation, all women and human rights.”