Angela Ponce made history as the first transgender woman to win Miss Universe Spain on Friday, June 29 at the Palau Final I de Congressos de Tarragona.
This competition was not her first pageant experience. In fact, she competed at Miss World Spain in 2015 representing Cadiz, the southernmost province of Spain. While she was eliminated during the first round of cuts on final night, she said she was already a winner.
"I have the regional crown on my head and I will keep fighting to make us seen, to make us heard and to demonstrate that I am already a queen with my own crown."
Ponce says she always knew she was different from other kids. In 2011, she discovered transsexuality and in 2014, with the help of surgery and hormone treatments her embraced her female identity.
Learn all about Angela Ponce in the Pageant Planet podcast:
In June of 2018, at the age of 26, Ángela Ponce again made history when she beat out 20 other contestants and was crowned Miss Universe Spain, becoming that country’s first transgender titleholder.
She would then go on to become the first transgender woman to compete on behalf of ANY country, when she got the opportunity to represent Spain at the Miss Universe pageant in Thailand, later that same year.
Ponce said that she planned to use her appearance at Miss Universe as a platform to draw attention toward the high rates of suicides among transgender teenagers, as well as the legal codes that still discriminate against them around the world.
“My goal is to be a spokesperson for a message of inclusion, respect and diversity not only for the LGBTIQ (Lesbian, gay, bi, transsexual, intersex and questioning people) community, but also for the entire world.”
“If my going through all this contributes to the world moving a little step forward, then that’s a personal crown that will always accompany me,” Ponce said.
**Ironically, after Angela got to the Miss Universe final, the Miss World pageant changed their rules about allowing transgender females to win the title.
**So, even though she was not allowed to win the Miss World Pageant, she ended up winning a victory that outshone any crown that she could have won, and cemented her legacy as a leader in the arena of transgender rights.
Finding a pageant system that fits YOU:
This brings up a very crucial lesson for all pageant contestants: NO two pageants are alike! One of the most important things to know about pageantry is that you have to find a pageant system that represents the same values as your own.
You want to participate in a pageant that is in line with who you are and where you’re at in your journey, or else you’ll end up wasting your time and feeling frustrated, and you won’t know why.
The biggest mistake that new pageant girls make is to get involved in a pageant that is not a good fit for them. Do your research! Ask around. Don’t be afraid to interview current and former contestants, as well as current and former titleholders in a given pageant system. And, by all means, bring your questions and concerns to the pageant director. They are there to assist you in determining whether or not their pageant is right for you.
In order for Angela Ponce to be successful in pageantry, she had to find a pageant system where she would be accepted and welcomed, and the Miss Universe Organization was a perfect fit for her because of its stand on transgender contestants.
In 2012, the Miss Universe Organization ended its ban on transgender contestants, thanks to another trailblazer, Jenna Talackova, a Canadian model and former titleholder. Talackova had successfully sued Miss Universe Canada organizers for initially disqualifying her for being transgender.
Back in 2012 when Donald Trump still owned the pageant, Talackova was disqualified from competing at Miss Universe Canada for not being a “naturally born female.” After pressure from GLAAD and a petition signed by 30,000 people, Trump subsequently overruled that decision and allowed Talackova to compete
Jenna Talackova, (who promoted her cause with high-profile attorney Gloria Allred at her side) was the first-ever transgender contestant to compete in the Miss Universe Canada pageant. She made it to the top 12 finalists and became one of four women who shared the title of Miss Congeniality
Miss Universe publicity director Brenda Mendoza has said transgender competitors are now welcome in all of its pageants around the world, but says it will be left to the individual franchises to determine if the recent policy change is carried out.
Since Angela Ponce was crowned Miss Universe Spain, other countries such as Venezuela and Puerto Rico, have opened their doors to the participation of trans women.
Pageantry may have been her first dream and the initial vehicle that Angela used to communicate and further her platform, but what often happens when you experience success in the pageant industry; is that it typically leads you into other arenas and gives you new opportunities that you could never have foreseen.
This is one of the most inspiring and rewarding aspects of the pageant industry; other people see what you are doing and they either want to support you in your goals, or they want to partner with you and try to find a way to be more effective together.
When you first begin competing in pageants, you tend to think that pageantry is an “individual sport”, or a “loner’s game”. You think that because this is your own personal dream, that everything depends solely on you and you have to go it alone.
But, there is a much bigger picture at work! The most powerful aspects of pageantry, (in addition to personal growth) are connection, community and change. It’s about connection on an “interpersonal” level and being able to create substantial change in the world by pooling your resources with other like minded people and combining your efforts.
This is something that Angela Ponce does very well. Sure, it’s true that not everyone is going to support her cause or agree with her beliefs and choices. But, instead of being divisive, Angela has a way of bringing people together, and doing it in a very winsome and non-confrontational way.
Receiving the 2019 Ilka Award
In the short time that she has been a celebrity, Angela has made significant progress with regard to her personal mission of being a spokesperson for a message of inclusion, respect and diversity, and many people have not only noticed, but they are rewarding her for it.
The Latino Commission on AIDS honored Angela Ponce with the 2019 Ilka Award at its annual Cielo Gala on Friday, June 7, 2019.
As the largest annual fundraiser in response to the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic for the past 24 years,
Cielo Gala has become an important platform to applaud the work of those who support the Commission’s goal of advancing the health and well-being of the Hispanic/Latino community.
The Ilka Award commemorates the life of actress and advocate Ilka Tanya Payan, who lost her life to AIDS, and to honor outspoken and supportive celebrities who give their voice and time to HIV and AIDS causes.
“I am deeply humbled and honored to be recognized at this year’s Cielo Gala,” said Ms. Ponce. “I’d like to add my passion and commitment to join the Commission’s mission to Design a World without AIDS and give voice and visibility to all people, no matter who they are.”
The Latino Commission on AIDS
The Latino Commission on AIDS is a nonprofit organization founded in 1990 dedicated to meet the health challenges and address the impact of HIV/AIDS, viral Hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the Hispanic/Latino community.
For the past 24 years, the Latino Commission on AIDS has gathered artists, musicians, fashion designers, the business community, public officials, and key leaders in health care to raise funds for programs and services to reduce the stigma and to improve the future of those living with, and affected by HIV and AIDS.
The Daniela Foundation
In addition to the Latino Commission, she is working with the Daniela Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps children and parents who are struggling with transgender issues.
Website and Facebook pages:
Angela continues to experience success as a fashion model and has taken advantage of her publicity from the Miss Universe Pageant to promote her platform and continue the dialogue about transgender issues.
She was often discriminated against in the modeling industry, prior to the success that she achieved as a titleholder. She shares how often that rejection would bring her to tears.
“The fashion industry likes to talk about freedom and creativity. But many times I’ve gone to a casting and they’ve given me the job, and then later my agency calls and says they’ve changed their minds, because they’ve found out I’m a transgender woman.”
Although the modeling industry in general is making strides to include more transgender people in their advertising campaigns, there are still some prominent brands that have a problem showcasing trans models. And, when those opinions make headlines, Angels Ponce has taken the opportunity to call them out.
In November, just prior to the Miss Universe pageant, Ed Razek, the Chief Marketing Officer for “Victoria’s Secret” Spoke to Vogue Magazine about the lingerie company, its sales and the famous Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. He told the magazine that the show would not include transgender models because it’s supposed to be a “fantasy.”
Even though he later apologized, the CMO said that they considered having a transgender and plus-size model in the fashion show but the stores themselves make that decision via marketing and sales.
“We market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world,” said, Razek.
In response to Ed Razeks statement, Angela Ponce said,
“If transgender women can’t walk in Victoria’s Secret shows, then they should put a sign on all their storefronts saying: No trans women. If they don’t want us to model for them, they shouldn’t want us to buy their products. That implies I’m just a man dressed as a woman.”