Kataluna Enriquez was ecstatic to be a symbol of hope for two disadvantaged communities when she won the Miss Nevada pageant in July and went on to compete in the Miss USA event as the first transgender woman to do so.
Enriquez, who is Filipino, told Yahoo Life, “I’m a trans woman of colour, a minority within a minority.” “I’m everything that’s underrepresented in this country and ready to start discussions about what it means to be an American.”
Unfortunately for her, her opportunity to do so was cut short on Monday when she was not selected as one of the Top 16 Miss USA contestants to attend the gala in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Elle Smith, Miss Kentucky, was crowned the winner and will represent the state of Kentucky at the next Miss Universe pageant on December 12 in Eilat, Israel.
But in a phone interview with Yahoo Life on Tuesday, Enriquez, 28, said, “It was an honour just to be able to represent my community and be an example for young LGBT children who now realise they don’t need to be bound by society’s standards.”
That I didn’t do better in the competition stunned me. The fact that I had put in so much effort made the disappointment all the more profound,” she explained. I believe “they were just not prepared.”
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Enriquez claimed that during the competition’s closed-door interview phase, contestants were asked their opinions on a wide variety of topics, but that her discussion focused exclusively on her transition. “It was disheartening since I felt like I had so much more to contribute and discuss… Even if others were asked about politics and climate issues, I had hoped to be asked more in-depth questions.”
Yahoo Life has reached out to Miss USA for comment on Enriquez’s interview, but a representative from the organisation has not yet answered.
Then again, Enriquez was quick to add, “It’s OK because we made an impression… and I received a lot of support and love on social media.”
After being harassed and threatened online before her trip to Oklahoma from Nevada, the candidate admitted that this news came as a welcome relief.
“I was very careful — and every time I heard a ‘boom,’ I was on high alert, and sometimes it would stress me out,” Enriquez said of her time at the competition, referring to the threats she received before it began. In the end, she didn’t run into any demonstrators. She said she felt safe thanks to the tight security at Miss USA and that she was treated with nothing but kindness by all of the other contestants.
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She remarked that she felt “very honoured” to have met the other competitors. “Considering the current state of political discourse in the United States, I was understandably anxious about how I would be received before even setting foot inside. However, I believe that as we spent more time together, they came to appreciate me for more than just being transgender.”
She stated about Smith, “Elle was so lovely, I’m delighted that she won.” “She was a fantastic competitor both on and off the stage. The warmth and kindness I felt from her and her family were greatly appreciated.”
She emphasised that despite their differences, “everyone had something to offer” and something powerful to tell, citing as examples a homeless youngster who had fled an abusive home and an Air Force veteran who had spoken publicly about suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The variety of the contestants, which included Enriquez, the first Afghan participant to represent Connecticut, and Smith, a Black woman and local news reporter, earned the pageant the moniker of “wokest” ever in several media outlets.
Yet Enriquez insisted that this was merely the beginning. They may have attempted to make it seem progressive, but there’s still a long way to go, she added. Every woman, of every size and colour, not just trans women, must be included in any discussion about equality and empowerment.
She enjoyed connecting with the competitors on a “deeper level” and added that “my favourite part was the costumes and the gowns, so I could see everyone through a creative lens.”
As the designer of her gown, a reinterpretation of the Pride-themed gown she wore to the Miss Nevada contest that took over a hundred hours to complete and featured over ten thousand glittering stones, she naturally had an interest in the other contestants’ outfits.
She explained that the garment represented her in several ways. A message was being conveyed. I can’t speak for how everyone responded, but I do know that many people felt heard and acknowledged by it.
Now that Enriquez has left pageantry and has her sights set on the fashion and entertainment industries (“something like Dancing With the Stars…”), she is just as determined to continue her work of uplifting others.
People assume that since I identify as transgender, my message is limited to the LGBTQ community. “But I’m a champion for genuine equality, which involves ensuring that everyone has the resources they need to thrive and the freedom to express themselves,” she said.
And she said, “I think I achieved that,” referring to her brief but historic reign as Miss USA.
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