Metro Weekly

Miss Universe Owner Caught on Tape Saying Trans Contestants “Cannot Win”

Video of Miss Universe board meeting raises questions about its trans owner's commitment to empowering women of all backgrounds.

Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip – Screenshot from leaked video (source Vox)

Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip, the transgender co-owner of the Miss Universe Organization, was caught on tape saying that women from nontraditional backgrounds — transgender women, married women, divorced women, and plus-sized women — “can compete but they cannot win.”

It is unclear from the video whether Jakrajutatip is referring to the Miss Universe Pageant itself — or a potential, separate reality competition involving pageant contestants.

Jakrajutatip made the comments during a Miss Universe board meeting last November.

During the meeting, Jakrajutatip said it would be good for the pageant’s image to allow a diverse group of women to compete.

“This is a communication strategy, because, you understand…they can compete but they cannot win,” she says in the video, which online news outlet Vox obtained from Rodrigo Goytortua Ortega, the former CEO of Miss Universe Mexico, who was present at the meeting. “We just put the policy out there. Social inclusion, as people would say.”

Later in the video, another board member suggests opening up a casting call for a diverse group of women, of all races, backgrounds, and sizes.

“We can have real size beauty, the contestant. Very big size,” Jakrajutatip replies. She later agrees with another board member that “we’ll have to control the audience” lest “they vote all for the big size.”

She adds that the ensuing publicity from the casting call for all types of women will allow the organization to market Miss Universe products to consumers.

“It’s all connected,” she says. “For money!”

The Miss Universe Organization has not publicly commented on the video, but Jakrajutatip appeared to confirm the video’s existence in a Facebook post, saying her words were taken out of context.

“The malicious edited video was out of context and used to manipulate other people which led to the public confusion, misunderstanding, misinterpretation and wrong conclusion,” she wrote.

“I still don’t comprehend why this man [Ortega], who I was so nice to him, would like to jeopardize me and the organization while we were talking about one of the new reality show episodes not the pageantry itself. However, I do believe that his unlawful act wasn’t successful as we always have the strong clever fans who can distinguish what is real or not.”

She added, “I’m a trans woman and a mother myself who all my life [has fought] for the gender equality rights to be where I am.”

Jakrajutatip purchased the Miss Universe Organization — once owned by Donald Trump — in 2022 in her capacity as CEO of the Thai television production company JKN Global Group.

Last year, JKN filed for bankruptcy, and in January, Jakrajutatip sold half her shares to Mexican businessman Raúl Rocha Cantú, the former owner of the Miss Mexico franchise.

Cantú also appears in the video, but says very little. As reported by Vox, Goytortua, who leaked the video of the meeting, claims to have released the footage after Cantú failed to pay him for his work.

The leaked video of Jakrajutatip’s comments raises concerns about whether the pageant is committed to inclusion and empowering women from all backgrounds, or whether it is simply trying to brand itself as “progressive” in an effort to appeal to a wider range of consumers.

As the first trans woman to helm the Miss Universe organization, Jakrajutatip was hailed as emblematic of moving the pageant forward in an inclusive direction, with the competition opening up to married women and mothers for the first time.

“I did accept the policy of having married women, trans women, and also pregnant women to be able to come into the competition, because I do believe in social inclusion,” she told Metro Weekly in a January 2023 cover interview. “Therefore I would love to encourage all women to have the privilege of having the same qualification to be able to come into the competition. Whether they win or not — that’s up to the judges — but I just allow them in.”

Technically, transgender women have been allowed to compete in the pageant since 2012. Spain’s Ángela Ponce became the first out transgender contestant in 2018 and Rikkie Valerie Kollé, of the Netherlands, became the second out trans contestant in pageant history in 2023.

Jakrajutatip’s comments come at a time when the Miss Universe Organization is embroiled in controversy stemming from the resignations of two titleholders from one of its subsidiaries, the Miss USA Organization.

While the winners of both the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants are under non-disclosure agreements even after stepping down, and have made limited comments in public, Vox reports that both titleholders quit after allegedly being subjected to a toxic workplace environment and bullying at the hands of Miss USA Organization President Laylah Rose. 

Rose released a statement earlier this month saying she takes those allegations seriously, and that “the well-being of all individuals associated with Miss USA is my top priority.”

As the controversy surrounding the Miss USA Organization intensified, observers within the pageant world began questioning where the Miss Universe Organization stood on the issue, noting that Jakrajutatip has stressed the importance of celebrating and empowering women of all backgrounds in past public comments.

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