Jenna Talackova stole the show at the Miss Universe Canada competition.
The transgendered contestant strutted her way into beauty pageant history Saturday — and the top 12 — wearing sparkling high heels and a white bikini in front of a fawning 850-person audience. She did not advance to the top five after the evening gown segment.
That Talackova, 23, got to compete at all represents a major policy change at the Miss Universe Organization, which opened the pageant to transgendered women for the first time.
Talackova’s story made headlines around the world when a blogger revealed she had competed in a transsexual beauty pageant in Thailand.
Talackova was immediately disqualified for not being a “naturally born female.”
But the Vancouver beauty refused to back down. She argued the controversial decision was discrimination. Talackova says she knew she was female by the time she was 4, began hormone therapy at 14 and had sex-reassignment surgery at 19.
In a surprise reversal, the Miss Universe Organization, owned by Donald Trump, reinstated her.
The pageant went one step further and changed its rules to allow transgendered women to compete in its worldwide competition. It will model its gender rules after the Olympic’s system, organization president Paula Shugart said Saturday.
“If you are legally recognized in your country, and you’ve had your surgery and been through everything, you’d be able to compete in your country’s pageant,” Shugart said. Some conservative countries have very strict gender rules, she added, meaning transgendered women might not qualify in those places.