Miss USA welcomes its first transgender beauty queen to the pageant, after Kataluna Enriquez, 27, was crowned Miss Nevada USA on Sunday, leading her into the national level of the pageant which then feeds into the Miss Universe pageant. 

“To my pageant mommy Riss Rose, no words can describe how much I am grateful of you,” Kataluna said in an Instagram post, posing alongside her pageant coach and Miss Nevada Teen USA winner, Noelani Mendoza. “For your constant support, for welcoming me in to your home, and feeding me nothing but love.”


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A post shared by Kataluna Enriquez (@mskataluna)

Enriquez emigrated to the US at the age 10 from the Philippines. Even though pageantry was very popular in her homeland, it wasn’t until she moved to America and watched the story of a Miss Universe contestant from the Philippines and her inspiring journey out of poverty, that she was inspired to view pageanting in a different light.

“I had thought that pageantry was objectifying women, but that particular contestant inspired me to look beyond the superficial layer of beauty and into contestants’ personal stories and what they advocate for”, she wrote in an essay for Newsweek.

First Transgender Miss USA is coming!

Leading up to this achievement, Enriquez has also had great success in trans-specific pageants, winning Queen California, Queen USA 2016, Super Sireyna WWUSA and an international transgender pageant called Queen of the Universe.

Most recently and among her first mainstream pageants was the Miss Silver State USA preliminary pageant, “Miss Silver State was a great experience … to me it was honestly a celebration of womanhood and diversity and this celebration of being your true self.” she said.

Winning Miss Silver State allowed her to get to Miss Nevada USA, where she pipped 21 other contestants at the post to take the crown, running on a platform centred on transgender awareness and mental health.

Enriquez also designs her own outfits, including a show-stopping rainbow-sequinned number she wore on Sunday night to celebrate Pride month.

Even though Miss Universe reversed a long-standing policy that participants must be ‘naturally born’ women almost 10 years ago in 2012, Enriquez would only be the second transgender woman to participate in that pageant if she wins Miss USA, as the winner of that crown then goes on to compete for the Miss Universe crown.

The first transgender woman to compete in Miss Universe, which until 2020 was owned and operated but the same organisation that operates Miss USA, was Spain’s Angela Ponce in 2018 and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a long and slow slog, with other American pageants actively fighting for the right to keep their ranks closed, including the Miss America pageant, which was reported by The Advocate back in 2018.

“Even though Miss America has taken some pretty big leaps into the 21st-century, they still have a lot of catching up to do. One of the competition’s official rules is that you have to be a “natural born woman” to compete, therefore eliminating transgender women and non-binary women”.


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A post shared by Kataluna Enriquez (@missnvusa)

Thankfully, other pageant organisations around the world have a more inclusive view, with Miss World Australia contestant Jess Marchi, a proud pansexual woman, competing for the Miss World crown in 2021 and talking to the Star Observer about her experience in June.

Enriquez will represent Nevada at the 2021 Miss USA pageant, being held on November 29 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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