A transgender woman has been named Miss Netherlands 2023, earning the chance to compete for the title of Miss Universe later this year.
Last Saturday, Rikkie Valerie Kollé won the pageant, becoming the first transgender woman to represent her country and only the second transgender woman to compete for the Miss Universe title since the competition began accepting transgender contestants in 2012.
Former Miss Spain Ángela Ponce, the first transgender titleholder, competed in the 2018 pageant but failed to advance to the finals.
“I DID IT!!!!” the 22-year-old Kollé wrote in an Instagram post after being crowned by her predecessor, Ona Moody, at the AFAS Theater in Leusden. “Yes I’m trans and I want to share my story but I’m also Rikkie and that’s what matters to me. And wherever you are in the world, I want to be there for you and be the example that I missed as a little me.”
Kollé is of Dutch and Indigenous Moluccan descent, and hails from Breda, a city located between Rotterdam and Antwerp. According to her finalist page, Kollé says she wants to be a role model “for all young women and queer people.”
“I know better than anyone what it’s like to feel alone…” she is quoted as saying. “When I was little Rik and came out as transgender, it wasn’t easy for everyone. … Today, I am stronger than ever before. Through my commitment, strength, and as Miss Netherlands, I hope to bring about change in society.”
Increasingly, more transgender women have competed in preliminary pageants recently. In 2021, former Miss Nevada Kataluna Enriquez became the first trans contestant in a Miss USA pageant. Next month, trans woman and activist Daniela Arroyo González will compete for this year’s Miss Universe Puerto Rico title, reports NPR.
Thai business mogul Anne Jakrajutatip, a trans woman and CEO of JKN Global, who is also the current owner of the Miss Universe Organization, told Metro Weekly earlier this year that she is committed to ensuring the pageant is inclusive while also serving as an empowerment platform that will allow young women to express themselves and highlight issues and causes they feel are important.
“I don’t see [pageants] as beauty competitions,” she said. “I see them as a platform to raise up the voices of women and give them the stage to advocate for good — they can be a force for good.”
She also expressed hope that contestants — and especially titleholders — would use that platform and the public recognition they receive through the competition to demonstrate “transformational leadership.”
“The winner must be able to become the iconic woman that the whole world can look up to. She must become the inspiration,” Jakrajutatip said.
But, as with any circumstance where a transgender person achieves some sort of accomplishment, Kollé has encountered a flood of hateful comments on social media, with many people accusing her of stealing the title and accolades that otherwise would have gone to a cisgender woman.
“Comments are passing the vibe check. We’ve had enough of this bulls***. You stole this title from REAL women. You have absolutely nothing to be proud of,” wrote one Instagram user.
Another user called Kollé’s victory “simply evil,” while others suggested that the Miss Universe pageant should be boycotted until organizers ban transgender women from competing.
Independent Women’s Voice, a right-wing advocacy group for conservative women best known for opposing transgender rights and transgender participation in women’s sports, blasted pageant officials for selecting Kollé to represent the Netherlands — even though she’s not guaranteed to reach the finals of the Miss Universe pageant.
“This is nothing to celebrate,” the group wrote on social media, according to Newsweek. “This is a slap in the face to every single woman who competed against this biological male in a competition designed SPECIFICALLY for women.”
The Miss Universe 2023 pageant will be held in El Salvador in December.
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