On Wednesday, popular beauty pageant Miss Universe was acquired by trans-rights activist and media tycoon Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip. As an openly trans-woman, the new buyer says she hopes to ‘inspire’ by nearturing the brand to be more inclusive. The organisation includes the sister padgents MissUSA and MissTeenUSA, which are both broadcast annually.
The change in ownership feels a refreshing contrast to the politics of one of it’s previous owners, Donald Trump, who was forced to sell the organisation after his comments regarding Mexican contestants cuased major networks NBC and Univision to abandon the pagent. After damaging footage leaked of Donald Trump making crude sexual-abuse related jokes, many former winners of the pageants spoke openly about their experiences of his bahaviour, claiming that Trump absused his power by making innapropriate comments and had an apt for entering changing rooms whilst contestants were in various states of undress.
Since IMG purchased the company from trump in 2015, the organisation has pushed for more inclusivity in the pageants, including allowing married woman and mothers to compete.
The new owner said this week, “We seek not only to continue [the pageant’s] legacy of providing a platform to passionate individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and traditions but also to evolve the brand for the next generation.”
The acquisition of the company by a trans-woman comes a year after the Miss USA padget saw it’s first transgender contentant, then 27 year old Kataluna Enriquez. Despite not advancing through to the final stage, the 2021 winner of the pageant, Elle Smith said it was “an honor” to participate alongside her.
Transgender indeviduals have not felt the same warmth in other pageants however, the similarly named American pageant Miss United States was sued by model Anita Noelle Green in 2019 after she was barred from the competition for not meeting the pageants definition of being a ‘”natural born female”. A federal judge in Portland ruled in favour of the pageant and said that beauty pageants could insist on their own definition of female when choosing contestants.
Since being sold by Trump, the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants has welcomed several of its first transgender contenstants.