Angela Ponce, Spain’s Miss Universe hopeful and the pageant’s first-ever transgender contestant, was unable to capture the crown on Sunday night — and she couldn’t have cared less.
“I don’t need to win Miss Universe,” explained Ponce, after failing to make the top 20.
“I only need to be here,” she said.
This year’s title wound up going to the Philippines’ Catriona Gray — one of the early favorites — but that didn’t stop pageant officials from giving Ponce a chance to speak about her history-making inclusion during a special, pre-recorded segment.
“I’m here to represent diversity of humans in the world,” she said. “My hope is for tomorrow to be able to live in a world of equality for everyone, simply for us all to understand that we are human and that we must make all our lives easier together. That reality for many people is going to change.”
Messages of support were pouring in Sunday on Twitter after Ponce’s exit.
“The tribute to miss spain was so beautiful,” wrote one user. “You may not win the crown but youve already won and captured our hearts.”
The 66-year ban on transgender Miss Universe contestants officially ended in 2012, but no one ever made it through to the final competition until Ponce. The 27-year-old managed to advance back in June after beating out 22 others for the title of Miss Spain.
Under the new rules, women who compete in the Miss Universe pageant are now only required to be unmarried and without children. They must also be between the ages of 18 and 28.