Miss Universe 2023: Meet the two transgender participants whose win can make history

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Nov 19, 2023 07:28 AM IST

Miss Universe 2023 opens new chapter with transgender inclusion and if either of the two transwomen emerge victorious, they will make history to don the crown

The 72nd Miss Universe pageant has arrived and is taking place in El Salvador (Sunday morning in India), where 84 women are competing for the coveted title and to celebrate diversity and beauty beyond boundaries, Miss Universe 2023 paves the way for transgender inclusion in the global pageantry with the inclusion of Miss Portugal, Marina Machete and Miss Netherlands, Rikkie Kolle, marking their first time transwomen participation in the competition. If either Machete or Kolle win, they will create history by becoming the first transwoman contestant to wear the Miss Universe crown.

Miss Universe 2023: Meet the two transgender participants whose win can make history (Photo by Twitter/Winwineklabu)
Miss Universe 2023: Meet the two transgender participants whose win can make history (Photo by Twitter/Winwineklabu)

Rikkie Kollé is a 22-year-old model and LGBTQIA+ rights activist who beat nine other finalists to be crowned Miss Netherlands in July this year and became the second transgender person to compete in the Miss Universe pageant, following Angela Ponce, who represented Spain in 2018. Kollé is a model who competed on “Holland's Next Top Model” and earlier in a video shared for the Voices for Change campaign, she advocated for equality and is against bullying since she reportedly faced it due to her gender identity.

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Before becoming Miss Netherlands, Kollé had highlighted the struggles she faced as a transgender in her life and said in a video, “Miss Universe asked us to describe ourselves in one word .The word I’m choosing is ‘victory,’ because as a little boy I conquered all the things that came through my path — and look at me now, standing here as a strong, empowering and confident trans woman.”

She had captioned the video, “Never forget that we can do this together, you’re not alone on this planet. Never stop dreaming of being your ultimate and confident YOU!. Never let someone tell you what’s good for you, because the only thing that matters is that you become the best version of yourself.” Kollé wrote on Instagram after debuting at the Miss Universe competition, “I see you all, I love you all. And I hope we can stay strong together.”

Flight attendant Marina Machete won the 2023 Miss Portugal competition in October, making her the first transgender contestant to do so in her country and her bio reads, “I'm most proud of the challenges I overcame with courage and strength. Leading me to develop humanity and kindness towards others in my life.”

In a video posted on Portuguese pageant’s YouTube channel, she had shared, “As a trans woman I’ve been through many obstacles along the way but fortunately and especially with my family, love proved to be stronger than ignorance.” Both these participants now use their social media platforms to share messages of encouragement to trans people around the world.

The 72nd Miss Universe will be streamed at 8 pm ET in English on The Roku Channel and in Spanish by Telemundo while the viewers in India can watch it on the Miss Universe YouTube channel and its X account, as it started at 6:30 AM IST on Sunday, November 19. Former Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo and TV personality Jeannie Mai are hosting the beauty paegent with Maria Menounos, making it the first time that the pageant has had an exclusively all-female hosting team.

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