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Miss Universe co-owner says trans women “cannot win” the pageant

October 3, 2022; Reno, NV; R’Bonney Gabriel of Texas was crowned Miss USA on Monday night at the Grand Sierra Resort. As the winner, R’Bonney will receive a luxury prize package, which includes a six-figure salary, a condo in Los Angeles, a “fabulous car” and a wardrobe filled with designer garments, according to the Miss USA official website. She’ll go on to compete in the Miss Universe pageant next year. This year is the first of a three-year deal to hold the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA contests in Reno. The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors voted in July to approve the deal, which secures the pageants through 2024. Mandatory Credit: Rachel Jackson/Reno Gazette Journal-USA TODAY NETWORK
R’Bonney Gabriel of Texas is crowned as Miss USA 2022. Photo: Reno Gazette Journal-USA TODAY NETWORK via IMAGN

Leaked audio from a Miss Universe board meeting recorded one of the international beauty pageant’s co-owners saying that “women from nontraditional backgrounds” — including transgender women — can be included in the competition but “cannot win.” The co-owner recorded in the audio, a trans woman, said her words were “maliciously” edited, leading to them being taken out of context.

The audio reportedly came from a November 2023 Miss Universe board meeting that was only recently reported on in English-language media by the news explainer website In the audio, Miss Universe co-owner Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip said, “The trans women, the women with husbands, divorced women … This is a communication strategy, because, you understand … they can compete, but they cannot win. We just put the policy out there. Social inclusion, as people would say.”

In the recording, another board member suggests, “We can have a casting for models of all different colors, sizes, whatever. We are also looking to commercialize that kind of thing — an agency. ‘Miss Universe Model Agency.’”

Jakrajutatip appears to agree, saying, “We can have real-size beauty, the contestant. Very big size … [But] we’ll have to control the audience [lest] they vote all for the big size.”

The winner of the Miss Universe pageant is chosen by a “selection committee, typically comprised of accomplished business leaders, philanthropists, and public figures, [who] look for a young woman who is comfortable in her own skin; someone who is authentic, empathetic and determined to make her mark in the world,” according to the organization’s website.

Later in the video, Jakrajutatip says that public excitement around the pageant’s inclusion will allow the organization to market Miss Universe products. “It’s all connected — for money,” she says.

In a February 26 public Facebook post, Jakrajutatip blamed an unidentified man for leaking the audio recording.

“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,” Jakrajutatip wrote.

“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,” her post continued. “We always have kind supporters who genuinely love [the Miss Universe] brand and believe in our core value of promoting diversity. I’m a trans woman and a mother myself who all my life fight [sic] for the gender equality rights to be where I am.”

Jakrajutatip’s recently unearthed comments come about a month after the surprise resignations of both Miss USA and Miss Teen USA over rumored allegations of a toxic workplace environment and bullying under Miss USA Organization president Laylah Rose. The Miss Universe Organization is the parent company of the Miss USA Organization, and the winner of Miss USA qualifies to compete in the Miss Universe pageant. However, the Miss Universe organization hasn’t issued a statement about the resignations.

Trans Miss Universe owner Jakapong Jakrajutatip making a speech at the 2023 pageant
Screenshot Trans Miss Universe co-owner Jakapong Jakrajutatip making a speech at the 2023 pageant.

Jakrajutatip is the first woman to own the Miss Universe organization. Her co-ownership was seen as the start of a more progressive and inclusive era for the now-72-year-old beauty pageant. During her tenure, the competition began allowing married women and mothers for the first time.

In August 2023,  Jakrajutatip told LGBTQ Nation’s Greg Owen that she was partly inspired to buy the organization after seeing Spanish contestant Ángela Ponce compete in Thailand in 2018. Transgender women have been allowed to compete in the pageant since 2012, but Ponce was the first openly transgender contestant in the pageant’s history.

“I was in the front row,” Jakrajutatip recalled. “She was the first trans woman walking on the stage in the final competition. She came on this stage, she cried. She talked in the video, ‘I did not come here to win. I just wanted to come here to convince everyone that yes, we can do it. There are trans women. And trans women, we are women.’ I cried. I stood up and I applaud her a lot, to the point, like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is it, I’ve been to the full circle moment. And this is my next move. Yes. My next move.’”

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