Transgender Inclusion Shakes Up Miss Universe Pageant Preparations

( – The last Miss Universe pageant held in El Salvador sparked student riots and contributed to a tragic civil war. As the beauty contest returns for its 72nd annual edition on Saturday, the pageant’s future is in jeopardy due to the bankruptcy filing by the Thai conglomerate that owns it.

Miss Universe, set to feature two transgender competitors this year, is not the only pageant facing controversy. Last year, allegations of rigging surfaced at the Miss USA pageant, where some contestants hinted that the competition may have been unfairly tilted in Gabriel’s favor.

Transgender entrepreneur and activist Anne Jakrajutatip, owner of JKN Global Group, purchased the Miss Universe franchise for $20 million in 2022 from the talent agency WME-IMG. The pageant was previously owned by Donald Trump, who sold the brand in 2015 during the early days of his first presidential campaign.

JKN is currently facing challenging economic conditions. Over the past year, reports indicate that JKN’s share price dropped by over 80%. Furthermore, due to new regulations, Miss Universe is experiencing resistance from major sponsorship globally. These rules mandate that supporters bid for the rights to host pageants in their respective countries to choose contestants for the global competition. Earlier this year, Unicorp in Vietnam ended its association with the Miss Universe Organization, and companies in Ghana, Belize, and Seychelles have done the same.

Despite the recent challenges facing the event, Jakrajutatip in an Instagram post earlier this week says the Miss Universe pageantry must go on.

Among this year’s 85 contestants are Netherlands Rikkie Kolle and Marina Machete from Portugal, both of whom are transgender participants. In 2018, Miss Spain Angela Maria Ponce Camacho became the first trans “woman” to compete and won the Miss Universe title.

Reflecting on that moment, Jakrajutatip shared with Cosmopolitan last month, “Ángela wept when it was over, telling the crowd she didn’t need to win — she just wanted the world to know that a trans woman could make it.

Jakrajutatip promised to transform Miss Universe when she acquired the franchise last year.

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