Here’s some interesting/cool news: The Miss Universe Organization—sponsor of worldwide beauty pageants, including Miss USA—recently began allowing transgender female contestants. Not only that, but the winner of this year’s Miss USA contest, Rhode Island’s Olivia Culpo, voiced her unequivocal support for transgender beauty queens during last night’s competition.
During the interview portion the pageant, Culpo was asked: “Would you feel it would be fair that a transgender woman wins the Miss USA title over a natural-born woman?” The 20-year-old responded:
“I do think that that would be fair, but I can understand that people would be a little apprehensive to take that road because there is a tradition of natural-born women, but today where there are so many surgeries and so many people out there who have a need to change for a happier life, I do accept that because I believe it’s a free country.
When asked after the pageant if she was put off by the question, Culpo said no. ”This is a free country and to each his own,” she added.
Awkward phrasing aside (I think it’s in reality TV stars and beauty pageant contestants’ contracts to voice a certain number of cliches and platitudes per minute), it’s a refreshing answer from a pageant queen—especially one who recently graduated from an all-girls Catholic high school.
Culpo isn’t one of the Miss USA contestants we featured yesterday, but two that we did highlight were in the top five: Nana Meriwether of Maryland, who took first runner-up, and Miss Georgia Jasmyn Wilkins, who came in fourth. Rounding out the top five were Audrey Bolte of Ohio and Jade Kelsall of Nevada.
The Miss Universe Organization’s decision to admit transgender contestants is quite a recent one, spurred by 23-year-old Jenna Talackova’s attempt to enter the 2012 Miss Canada pageant. Talackova, who was born male but started hormone therapy at 14 and underwent sexual reassignment surgery at 19, was originally told the contest was only open to “naturally born females” and denied entry. After public outrage, and advocacy from organizations such as GLAAD, Donald Trump, who runs the Miss Universe Organization, overruled that decision. A spokeswoman for the organization said transgender contestants are now welcome at any of the Miss Universe-sponsored pageants worldwide.
Talackova, by the way, made it to Miss Canada’s penultimate round but ultimately lost the competition; she did, however, tie for Miss Congeniality.