In the wake of a Victoria’s Secret fashion show that many feel failed on the inclusivity front, Spain’s Angela Ponce is poised to make history as the first transgender woman to compete in Miss Universe. The program, which airs at 7 p.m. EST on Sunday from Bankok, Thailand, is a star-studded event that will feature Steve Harvey as onstage host, Ashley Graham backstage, and Ne-Yo as the lead performer.
After earning title of Miss Spain in June — which she beat out 22 other competitors to win — Ponce told the Associated Press she hopes to use her platform to fight for better rights for transgender people. “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,” said Ponce.
Ponce spoke with Time in late November, and shed light on the issues she’s faced as a transgender model. “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 trans woman,” said Ponce. “I would just burst into tears.”
— I-Rex (@EjovaM) December 16, 2018
She also addressed the controversy with Victoria’s Secret, in which an executive publicly stated that he wouldn’t cast transgender models in the brand’s main show. “I’d say that if trans women can’t walk in Victoria’s Secret shows, then they should put a sign on all their storefronts saying: No trans women,” Ponce told Time. “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.”