Miss Universe Celebrates Its First Openly Gay Contestant
Photo: Instagram/missuniversemyanmar
Culture

Miss Universe Celebrates Its First Openly Gay Contestant and It’s About Time

Miss South Africa, Zozibini Tunzi, was crowned 2019’s Miss Universe and it was a major win for dark-skinned black girls and women everywhere, who were able to see someone who looks like them take home the crown. “I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me — with my kind of skin and my kind of hair — was never considered to be beautiful,” she said. I think it is time that that stops today. I want children to look at me and see my face and I want them to see their faces reflected in mine..” It was a wonderful and important moment but last night was also in many ways a win for the pageant’s first openly gay contestant — Swe Zin Htet, the reigning Miss Myanmar.

Htet came out publicly just a week before participating in the pageant’s final on Sunday. This was a brave move for a number of reasons. For starters, she is the first openly gay contestant in the competition’s 67-year history. She’s also from a country where homosexuality is still illegal.

I have that platform that, if I say that I’m a lesbian, it will have a big impact on the LGBTQ community back in Burma,” she told People. The difficult thing is that in Burma, LGBTQ people are not accepted, they are looked down on by people and are being discriminated against.”

The Miss Universe pageant which has faced tons of criticism in the past for its lack of diversity, inclusion, and even sexism, has slowly been making some progress. Just last year, Miss Universe has its first-ever transgender contestant — Angela Ponce. The Spanish model and beauty pageant contestant who won Miss Universe Spain 2018, went down in history as the first transgender woman to be crowned Miss Spain.

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Este es mi último posado oficial como @missuniversespain 2018 y es tan especial como el primero que realicé a días de ser coronada en la hermosa ciudad de Tarragona. Ha pasado más de un año y la emoción de ser #España permanece intacta. Ha sido un camino de descubrimientos, aprendizajes y evolución en el que juntos hicimos historia llevando al universo un mensaje que rompió barreras sociales. Hoy quiero agradecerles a cada uno de ustedes por ser incondicionales conmigo, por acompañarme en las risas, en el llanto, en la lucha por los derechos humanos, en la ardua tarea de educar sobre la diversidad del ser humano y en el orgullo de representar la energía, la cultura y la idiosincrasia de mi país. Gracias universo, gracias #España, gracias a ustedes, mis queridos amigos. Siempre suya, Ángela Ponce. _______ This is my last official shoot as @missuniversespain 2018 and it's just as special as the very first one I did just days after being crowned in the beautiful city of Tarragona. It's been over a year and the excitement to represent Spain is just as alive today! It's been a journey in which we've learned and discovered new things. We have evolved together and made history taking a message that broke barriers and has had a social impact. Today I want to thank each of you for your unconditional support to me. You've been there for me through the good times and bad, throughout this fight for human rights and the difficult task of educating about human diversity. I am very proud to represent the energy, culture and values of my country. Thank you, Universe. Thank you, #Spain. Thank you to all you, my dear friends. Always yours, Ángela Ponce. – Fotografía: @ivandumont. – Coordinación: @rogervrgs. – Producción: @tino.constantino. – Maquillaje y peinado: @jcesarmakeup. – Vestido: @douglastapiaoficial. – Pendientes: @gwittles. – Corona: @gwittles. – Locación: Hotel @vpplazaespanadesign – Org Miss Universe Spain: @milamartinez_pageantcoach.

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The pageant is finally recognizing the importance of showcasing all kinds of women of all skin tones, hair textures,  and lifestyles and the significance this has on culture and society.

We are honored to give a platform to strong, inspirational women like Miss Universe Myanmar, who are brave enough to share their unique stories with the world,” Miss Universe President, Paula Shugart said. “Miss Universe will always champion women to be proud of who they are.”

This year we have recognized a significant difference in the conversations around what a pageant queen should look like and be like. For the first time ever, Miss America, Miss Teen USA, and Miss USA were ALL black women this year. For years the default beauty standard in pageants — even Miss Universe ironically enough — was white. The overall standard was white, cisgender, straight, and feminine. If you were anything outside of that you risked even being able to participate.

There’s still a lot of work to do when it comes to representation not just in beauty pageants but across the board, but it’s inspiring to see us finally getting there.