Transgender Miss Universe contestant takes to the stage
Published Friday, May 18, 2012 8:05AM EDT
Pageant history was made at the Miss Universe Canada competition in Toronto Thursday night, as Jenna Talackova became the first transgender female to compete for the title.
The 24-year-old took part in the evening gowns and swimsuits competitions Thursday, wearing a white clingy gown with an open back during the gown event, then switching into a tiny white bikini that showed off her endlessly long legs for the swimsuit event.
It was hard to miss Talackova, if for no other reason than the fact that the 6'1 blonde beauty towered at least half a head higher over the other 61 competitors.
Still, Talackova didn't nab any of the smaller prizes handed out Thursday night that would have automatically bumped her to Saturday night's final round. Those awards included "Best Body," "Best Runway Model," and the "People's Choice" award.
While many see Talackova's hard-fought place on the stage as a victory for transgender men and women, friends and relatives of some of the other contestants say it's unfair that Talackova is stealing the spotlight.
Donavon Powell, who was there to cheer for his 24-year-old girlfriend, Vaughan Marr of Cremona, Alta., says Talackova may have overshadowed other worthy challengers.
"It's a little bit one-sided and there's a lot of focus on maybe Jenna and maybe the issues surrounding it," he told The Canadian Press.
"I think it's good there's attention brought to it but I think it might be outweighing and overshadowing the rest of the competition in general."
Talackova has been the subject of international media fascination ever since she was disqualified for not being a "naturally born female" because she had undergone gender reassignment surgery when she was 19.
That drew a firestorm of criticism, leading to an online petition to have her reinstated that earned 40,000 signatures. Businessman Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe organization, relented and announced last month that Talackova would be reinstated.
Organizers admit that interest in this year's race has been intense, drawing twice as many reporters as last year. Visiting media outlets include TV crews from CNN and the American entertainment show "Inside Edition," as well as two Tokyo broadcasters.
The contestants will face more competitions and will be interviewed by the judges in events tonight, with the new Miss Universe Canada being crowned Saturday night.