Miss Universe

Meet the mothers and transgender women candidates competing in Miss Universe 2023

Ysa Abad

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Meet the mothers and transgender women candidates competing in Miss Universe 2023
For the first time in Miss Universe history, the 2023 pageant includes two mothers and two transgender women competing for the crown

As one of the biggest and most prestigious pageants in the world, the Miss Universe organization has been at the forefront of finding ways to support more women. They’ve consistently evolved to heed calls for greater diversity, inclusivity, and representation in the pageant. 

In 2012, they changed its rule only allowing “naturally born females” in the competition to also allow transgender candidates to participate. As of writing, they remain to be the only major international pageant that accepts trans women candidates. Spain’s Angela Ponce made history in 2018 as the first transgender delegate to compete in the international edition of the pageant.

In 2022, the Miss Universe organization announced that starting 2023, they’ll be opening the pageant to mothers and wives. Previously, only single women, aged between 18 to 28, who “must not have ever been married, not had a marriage annulled, nor given birth to, or parented a child” were allowed to compete. 

“Now, women are able to have families, they’re able to have a job, they’re able to be a spokesperson. We should not be the ones to say, ‘You can’t do this,” Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe organization, said about their decision. 

For the Miss Universe 2023 pageant, two married women with children and two transgender women will be competing for the crown – a first in the pageant’s more than 70-year history. 

In light of these groundbreaking developments, let’s get to know more about the contestants who are set to make history in the pageant: 

Michelle Cohn (Guatemala)

In August, Michelle Cohhn became the first married woman with children to win the Miss Universe Guatemala crown, as well as the first mother confirmed to compete in the 2023 pageant. 

The 28-year-old beauty queen is married to Andres Mattheu, whom she shares two children with – a son and a daughter. 

Following her win, Cohn took to Instagram to express her happiness in having the opportunity to represent her country in the beauty pageant.

“A little over a year ago, I would have thought this was impossible and today, I am here looking to be the first mother to represent Guatemala to the universe,” she wrote in Spanish. “Here I am today, once again proving what we as women can accomplish.” 

Prior to joining Miss Universe, Cohn also previously represented Guatemala in the Miss Grand International 2013 pageant. 

Camila Avella (Colombia)

In September, Camila Avella was crowned Miss Universe Colombia –  the first married candidate to win the title. 

The model and TV presenter is a mother of one, a two-year-old daughter. Following Cohn, she’s the second delegate in the Miss Universe 2023 pageant who has a child. 

Prior to her winning the Miss Colombia pageant, Avella has opened up how important it is for her as a mother to participate in the competition, saying that it signifies another milestone for women to highlight their potential. 

“Amelia, my daughter, is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” she wrote in Spanish. “With her was born in me the desire to achieve the best version of myself. I want to show the universe how capable we women are and be an example and inspiration that being a mother does not limit us to working. To fulfill our purposes, we can play in all the roles we have in life and be successful in each of them.” 

Describing her win as a “historic achievement” for Colombia, Avella promises that she will represent the “beauty, strength, and talent” of her country in the Miss Universe 2023 pageant. 

If either Cohn or Avella win the Miss Universe 2023 pageant, they’ll make history as the first married woman with a child to do so. 

Rikkie Valerie Kollé (Netherlands)

In July, model Rikkie Valerie Kollé became the first transgender woman candidate to win the Miss Universe Netherlands crown. 

Following her crowning moment, Kollé took to social media to share her happiness about the milestone. 

“It was an educational and wonderful process, my year can no longer be broken. I’m so proud and happy, I can’t describe it. I’ve made my community proud and shown that it can be done,” she wrote in Dutch, as translated by Business Today. 

“And yes, I’m a trans woman and I want to share my story,” she added. “I did this on my own strength and enjoyed every moment.”

In the Miss Netherlands website, Kollé mentioned that she wanted to be a role model for young women and queer people, adding that she personally experienced suffering after she came out as transgender. 

“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. Love is love. Be who you want to be,” she said in a separate video

Kollé is only the second transgender woman to join the global Miss Universe pageant since Spain’s Ponce. 

Mariana Machete (Portugal)

In October, Marina Machete was named Miss Universe Portugal, making her the first transgender woman to win the crown. She’s also the second transgender woman to be confirmed to compete in the Miss Universe 2023 pageant. 

During the Miss Portugal pageant, the flight attendant lobbied for trans rights, saying that the “rise in the levels of transphobia and intolerance worldwide” is “alarming.”

Meet the mothers and transgender women candidates competing in Miss Universe 2023

“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,” she said.

If either Kollé or Machete win the Miss Universe 2023 pageant, they’ll be the first transgender woman to win the crown. 

Over 80 delegates from all over the world will be competing to succeed USA’s R’Bonney Gabriel. 

The Miss Universe 2023 coronation night is set for November 18 (morning of November 19 in the Philippines). Meanwhile, the preliminary competition and the national costume show are set for November 15 and 16, respectively. 

The Philippines’ Michelle Dee is competing in hopes of winning the country’s fifth Miss Universe crown, with its recent winners being Pia Wurtzbach in 2015 and Catriona Gray in 2018. – Rappler.com

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