I’ve mentioned on here in the past that I don’t really get into two types of television programming very much: Awards shows and reality television. Not to fault anyone who enjoys said programming, but I’ve never got my kicks watching events where glamour overshadows the rewarding of good accomplishments, nor do I take satisfaction in watching how a likely normal person with good intentions get painted in a vicious light for the want of winning a half-million bucks (uh, thanks, prodding producers?).
One other TV staple, or at least it was when I was younger and my mom and sister commanded what we watched on the TV, is the beauty pageant. Admittedly, a dresser-upper like me would have an inkling to tune in and marvel over the elegant evening dresses and hairstyles the contestants wear on the stage. And, yes, the women on those stages deserved to compete and present their grace and talent. But the then-corniness of the Miss America pageant left me with the impression that it and other similar events were the product of a time when when an older, more conservative, and, let’s face it, mostly male mindset decreed a certain kind of feminine beauty. ([cue old timey music] “I say, ol’ buddy, ol’ pal! Just look at how that pretty little thing struts across that stage. That dame’s the bee’s knees, I tell ya.”)
But rather than go on and on about how beauty pageants feel antiquated (perhaps a topic for another post), let’s use this particular space to highlight one particular beauty pageant figure on the verge of doing something historic.
That, on her official Instagram feed, is Angela Ponce. Yes, she looks photogenic and fashion model-caliber glamorous, which is un modo requerido in beauty pageants such as Miss Universe. Angela has been competing in beauty pageants since at least 2015, when she won the title of Miss World Cadiz. She is the reigning Miss Spain, and is representing her country this week at the Miss Universe 2018 competition in Bangkok, Thailand.
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Comienza tu día con una sonrisa y la vida te sonreirá también 💕 Feliz Miércoles 💕 . Start your day with a smile and life will give you a smile too 💕 Happy Wednesday 💕 . . . – Concepto, dirección y fotografía: @ivandumont. – Producción: @rogervrgs. – MakeUp & hair: @jeanrodriguesmakeup. – @orgbemiss. . . #shooting #fotopose #fotografia #missuniversespain #angelaponce #missuniverse
While you may snark and think Angela Ponce is just another beauty queen, get hep to this muy importante fact about her: When Angela won Miss Spain earlier this year, she became the first transgender woman to earn that crown. And with her entry in the Miss Universe 2018 competition, she is the first transgender entrant in the competition for that title. And if you believe the bookies who lay odds on such things (bookies lay odds on everything), Angela is a serious favorite to take the Miss Universe title this weekend.
The fact that Angela Ponce is Miss Universe’s first trans contestant is great news for the trans community. That Angela has a good chance to take the crown, at least among the bookies, is a positive as well. But, sadly, every good advancement for a trans man or woman brings out the knuckle-dragging pundits of the internet: Google “Angela Ponce” and odds are that the top searches come from conservative-leaning websites up in arms over the fact that Angela is even competing in the pageant, let alone having good odds. Yes, their comments have included derogatory, including the old “bromide” of Angela being a “biological male.” (Yeah, that claim that Google is silencing the right wing? Don’t you believe it.)
But at least Angela Ponce is taking the high road against the anti-trans bigotry coming from the dark corners of the internet and even from past and present pageant contestants. Just by being a contestant, Angela is fulfilling an aim to “make people aware of my reality and to talk a little to the world about the lack of education on diversity.” In other words, while haters are gonna hate what they don’t want to know about, Angela is ready to educate and enlighten the world.
“I’m not just another Miss Universe candidate who wants world peace,” she has recently stated. In another interview from this week, she stated this: “I am proud to have the opportunity to use this platform for a message of inclusion, tolerance and respect for the LGBT+ community.” She’s not just talking the talk, either: Back home in Spain, she works with an organization that works with children dealing with gender identity issues. And she’s using her visibility to draw attention to the suicide rate among trans youth as well as the legal discrimination trans individuals face around the globe.
What’s remarkable, too, is the general industry that Angela Ponce is partaking in: While competing in the Miss World pageant in 2015, she was told on the day of the competition that the pageant’s rules forbade a trans woman to win. A crushing moment, for sure, as would a lack of modeling callbacks from casting agents who realized she was trans. But it didn’t dissuade Angela from continuing her dream to be in the pageant world. She kept forging forward, entering the pipeline toward that would leader her to Miss Spain and Miss Universe, who opened their doors to trans contestants in 2012, with Miss World not following suit until just this year.
(Side note before we go any further: There’s a nice story about another Miss Universe contestant this week. She is Miss Panama, Rosa Montezuma, who faced her own prejudice back home, and calls that she shouldn’t even compete, simply because she’s indigenous. But Rosa is proving them all wrong, and proving to be a positive role model in her own right, by being the first indigenous Panamanian to compete in Miss Universe.)
Don’t forget, too, the competition Angela Ponce is in this week: Miss Universe and its parent company are currently owned by the talent agency William Morris Endeavor. Until WME bought the Miss Universe Organization in late 2015, it had been owned by… You Know Who. Yes, he’s the same doofus who has made disdain for “the other,” in particular immigrants to America, his stock in trade. It’s those anti-immigrant comments during You Know Who’s campaign to become You Know What that prompted his partner in Miss Universe, NBC, to sever all business ties with him, and it led to his pawning off Miss Universe to WME after 20 years of ownership.
At this point, you’re probably doing the above matemáticas and realizing Miss Universe allowed trans entrants during You Know Who’s ownership. Well, there’s a caveat: In 2012, a trans contestant for Miss Universe Canada was disqualified for not being a “naturally born female.” There was, as you’d expect, a resulting backlash — but it was against the Miss Universe Organization. They capitulated and threw their doors open to trans contestants, with Angela Ponce eventually becoming the first trans entrant to reach the Miss Universe pageant.
Yes, it would be so delicious if Angela Ponce were to win Miss Universe this weekend, knowing that it was once owned by a misogynist and bigot whose administration has put the trans community in the perils of discrimination, persecution, and hatred. Angela recognizes that if she claims Miss Universe, it will send a clear message to You Know Who. As she told TIME magazine, a win would be “more than a message to him, it would be a win for human rights,” also noting that “it would show trans women are just as much women as cis women.”
But by her poise and grace (two quality traits of a beauty pageant contestant) and her being a positive representation of our broad trans community, Angela Ponce is a winner already. If you haven’t done so already, give her some love for being, in her words after she won Miss Spain, “a spokesperson for a message of inclusion, respect and diversity not only for the LGBTQ+ community, but also for the entire world.” Even if you’re still not keen toward beauty pageants in general, you can’t deny that Angela is una verdadera reina.