‘Stay tuned for real-time updates from the Miss Universe 2023 event!’
MANILA, Philippines — After the Netherlands, another European country is fielding a transgender woman to the 2023 Miss Universe pageant next month after Marina Machete captured the Miss Universe Portugal crown on Oct. 5 (Oct. 6 in Manila).
The 28-year-old flight attendant will join Dutch model Rikkie Vallerie Kolle as the second transgender woman to qualify for the 72nd Miss Universe pageant taking place in El Salvador. Two mothers from South America, meanwhile, had already joined the roster—Camila Avella from Colombia and Michelle Cohn from Guatemala.
Machete represented Palmela in the competition held in Portugal’s southeastern Evora region. Her fellow candidates welcomed her victory with warm applause as she received her Miss Universe Portugal crown from her predecessor Telma Madeira, who finished in the Top 16 of the 71st Miss Universe pageant held in New Orleans, Louisiana, in the United States in January.
The new queen is the first transgender woman to qualify for the Miss Universe Portugal pageant. “For many years I wasn’t eligible to compete. And now it’s such an honor to be part of this incredible group of candidates,” Machete posted on social media before her coronation.
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“We’re counting down to Miss Universe 2023. El Salvador, see you soon,” she said in a separate post after she earned the right to represent the Iberian nation in the international pageant.
The Miss Universe Organization (MUO) officially allowed transgender women to take part in its affiliate competitions in 2012 when then owner Donald Trump accepted model Jenna Talackova’s participation in the Miss Universe Canada pageant. In 2018, the contest found the first transgender woman to qualify for the international level when Angela Ponce won the Miss Universe Spain crown.
Miss Universe Philippines (MUPH) National Director Shamcey Supsup-Lee said in an earlier interview that her organization still cannot accept transgender applicants because it is bound by the nation’s laws. “Miss Universe allows trans women to join the international competition, but it says there that they have to be female in their legal documents, including passport, okay? But the Philippines, right now, does not allow a change in your gender in your legal document. It’s not yet legal in the Philippines,” she explained.
Lee also said that MUO owner Anne Jakrajutatip, a transgender woman herself, retained the requirement because she wants to further push the discussion of trans rights on the government level, to encourage the implementation of policies that will officially recognize a person’s preferred gender.
The MUPH, however, followed the other changes that MUO had introduced. When the international organization said mothers and married women will be allowed starting in 2023, the national competition opened its doors to women regardless of their marital status or whether they had borne a child or not. Three mothers qualified as official candidates in the 2023 Miss Universe Philippines pageant, with Claire Dacanay from Parañaque City advancing to the semifinals.
And when MUO lifted the maximum age limit for candidates starting with the 2024 competition, MUPH said it will now accept applicants as long as they are of legal age.
The Philippines will be represented by an openly bisexual woman, actress-model Michelle Dee who finished in the Top 12 of the 2019 Miss World pageant. The Filipino queen is also the daughter of 1979 Miss International Melanie Marquez and cousin of 2017 Reina Hispanoamericana Teresita Ssen “Winwyn” Marquez.