As recently as last year, the Miss Universe Organization disqualified a contestant—Miss Canada, Jenna Talakova—after they discovered she was transgender. When they finally changed their rules regarding the exclusion of LGBT contestants in April, Kylan Arianna Wentzel of Century City, California, was a shift manager at Jamba Juice saving up for her sex reassignment surgery. But when she heard the news, she worked her ass off and moved her surgery up six months in order to enter the competition, which takes place on Saturday.
Wentzel says of her inspiring motivational skills:
"The first time I watched a beauty pageant was when I was 11, in 1997, when Miss USA won Miss Universe. And ever since then, it's kind of been implanted in my brain. I wasn't sure how it would happen for me, but it was something I put out there. You have to put it out to the universe-what you want to do-and you have to follow up on it.
So, let's say for transgender individuals, even if you haven't had your sex change and you're not sure, you have to act like you are Miss Universe or you are the woman you see yourself being. And you do that in everyday life. So I just worked really hard. I saved for surgery. I started getting procedures early like laser hair removal-things like that. It really is about believing in yourself. But you also need people to believe in you, because you can't really get that far, sometimes, when you don't have that kind of support."