Trans beauty queen Kataluna Enriquez made history on Sunday when she was crowned Miss Nevada. Now, in another historic first, the 28-year-old will compete this fall for the title of Miss USA.
Though the Miss USA pageant, no longer affiliated with Donald Trump and different than the Miss America pageant, has allowed trans contestants to compete for nearly a decade, this is the first time a trans woman has advanced to the final competition (a Spanish trans woman, Angela Ponce, competed in the Miss Universe pageant in 2018).
“It hasn’t hit me yet. We just made history, and I don’t know how that feels. It was part of my goal, part of my dream,” Enriquez told the Las Vegas Sun.
Enriquez, a native of the Philippines, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when she was 10. She’s lived in Las Vegas for a little over a year, where she works as a health care administrator, specializing in LGBTQ+ patients and care. An accomplished designer, Enriquez created her gowns for the Miss Nevada competition — which included a rainbow Pride dress — and will do the same for Miss USA.
Now crowned Miss Nevada, Enriquez will lend her voice and time to the LGBTQIA Center of Southern Nevada and Las Vegas TransPride, specifically advocating for victims of abuse.
Activists see Enriquez’s victory, and her comfortable embrace of her identity, as a huge boon for trans youth with too few role models.
“I love that Miss USA and the organization is open and accepting of all kinds of women,” Enriquez said. “I am a woman, this is my experience, and this is who I am. [My win] wasn’t necessarily focused on me being trans; it was my special gift if anything.”
The 2021 Miss USA pageant will be held November 29 in Tulsa, Okla.