Kataluna Enriquez, 1st transgender woman to win Miss Nevada USA, speaks out on overcoming challenges to claim title
Kataluna Enriquez made history on June 27 by winning the Miss Nevada USA title and becoming the first open transgender candidate to compete in the upcoming Miss USA contest.
Enriquez, who is Filipino American, beat 21 other contestants to win the crown at the South Point Hotel Casino in Las Vegas. In March, she also became the first transgender woman to represent Miss Silver State USA, an official preliminary round for Miss Nevada USA.
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"I am so happy and grateful to be Miss Nevada USA 2021 and to represent our state of Nevada in this year's Miss USA," Enriquez told Good Morning America. "This has been one of my longest dreams and I'm excited to share it with my community, especially the LGBTQ + youth."
PHOTO: Kataluna Enriquez, 27, made history when she was crowned Miss Nevada USA on June 27 and will be the first openly transgender candidate to compete in the upcoming Miss USA contest. (Marissa Castillo)
"When I was young I used to say, 'I wish I could see someone like me on this stage," "Enriquez continued. “That was something I never had in my childhood and to be able to give it to other people, that is one of my hopes in life, only for those who did not always have that, to be able to represent a positive change and bring about moments in life . "
Her historic victory was met with a flurry of support on social media, including a congratulatory post from the Miss Nevada USA organization.
"Good morning world! More like the universe", read the Instagram post. "Congratulations to @mskataluna on her historic victory !!!"
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It has not always been easy for Enriquez to win the crown. She started participating in transgender competitions in 2015 and later started doing cisgender competitions where she faced multiple challenges.
"When I started competing with cisgender women or the Miss USA organization, there was a competition that asked me to come up with documents that I thought were invasive and set me apart," revealed Enriquez. "Also, no roommates were made available to me, regardless of my identity."
She said that despite providing all of the required documentation for a pageant in another state, she still had to undergo a more rigorous screening process. Enriquez said she had to provide legal orders, medical certificates and her ID card to pageant organizers to confirm she is a woman.
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"It was basically just a refusal to be there, so that's one of the experiences I've had," she said.
"There is a lot of backlash I get and I think I want to use this time to really educate people about what it means to be a transgender person, to be part of the LGBTQ + community," Enriquez continued. "And I think there is still a lack of representation when you're a trans woman of color and a Southeast Asian American."
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Now she plans to use her life experiences "as a trans woman with color and as a woman who survived physical and sexual abuse" to shape her platform called #BEVISIBLE, which aims to combat hatred through vulnerability.
"I've learned that people just take advantage of our vulnerable moments and use them to kind of belittle us and dehumanize us, but in reality that's what connects us as humans," said Enriquez. "My goal this time is to expand my platform for other people and get them to share their stories so that we can create a world where everyone is aware of things and we can have positive conversations and nobody, who experiences difficulties or other situations in life can make them feel as if they are less than. "
PHOTO: Enriquez to represent the Silver State in the Miss USA 2021 pageant in Tulsa, Okla on November 29th (Marissa Castillo)
Not only is Enriquez a title holder, she also works as a health administrator specializing in LGBTQ + care, as a model and owner of her own clothing line called Kataluna Kouture.
"I started my design company because I had no money growing up," said Enriquez. "I didn't have the money to buy clothes and clothes, and I couldn't find anything that matched my body type, and that was very important to me."
She attended a fashion design school and says that when she started competing with her own designs, parts of the evening gown fell off. Her skills improved over time, and she even designed the rainbow sequin evening gown she wore during the state competition in honor of the month of pride.
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"My victory is the hope for many people, the hope that they have a better chance in life, better opportunities and different results," she said. "I hope my victory gives them hope and a chance that lets them know that they can have a successful path in life too, regardless of what they have been through and what they are going through."
Enriquez will fight for the Miss USA national title in November. If she wins, she will advance to the Miss Universe contest and would only be the second transgender woman to enter the contest. In 2018, Spaniard Angela Ponce made history and became the first transgender woman to compete in Miss Universe.
"I would like to be the first Asian to win the Miss USA title and the first trans woman," said Enriquez. "I think this will be a great example of moving forward to create a better future in our country."
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"My win is visibility and representation of hope and an example of loving and celebrating diversity and its differences," she added. "We can't wait to spread our colors on the Miss USA stage."
Kataluna Enriquez, the first transgender woman to win Miss Nevada USA, talks about overcoming the challenges to win the title, which originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com
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