Almost two years after meeting at the 2020 Miss Grand International pageant (which actually took place in March 2021!), Miss Argentina (Mariana Varela) and Miss Puerto Rico (Fabiola Valentín), who both placed top 10 in the competition, announced their wedding in a recent Instagram reel. Now that’s what we call a hard launch.
“After deciding to keep our relationship private, we opened the doors to them on a special day. 28/10/22 ❤️💍✨,” an Instagram translation of the caption to the joint reel reads. The reel itself features a romantic vignette of highlights from their nearly two-year relationship, including glow-y beach trips, shots of the two cuddling in bed, a photo of “TE AMO” written in rose petals on a bed, and “MARRY ME” spelled out in gold and silver balloons. The reel is capped off with what appears to be a courthouse wedding, as the two beauty queens posed outside dressed in white.
Since announcing their marriage, Varela has responded to Instagram commenters giddily expressing support, writing, “We are very happy and blessed. I wish you that the love you are giving us is multiplied!”
Prior to the announcement of their wedding, both women featured heavily in each other’s Instagram feeds, including an April 2021 post from Valentín of the two at the beach, in which she calls Varela’s friendship “one of the great gifts in this experience.” Another post shows the two spending the holidays last year together in Puerto Rico. But their wedding announcement is the first time that the two have publicly spoken to their relationship status.
This is, truly, as The Cut’s Olivia Truffaut-Wong put it, a classic case of finding “love in a hopeless place.” Beauty pageants have long been known for subjecting contestants to racism, misogyny, fatphobia, transphobia, all kinds of toxicity, and even sexual misconduct. More recently, there have been exciting, progressive shifts—like Thai tycoon Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip, a trans woman, purchasing the Miss Universe organization last week. The organization, you’ll recall, was once owned by noted transphobe Donald Trump, who sold it in 2015.
In a lot of ways, Varela and Valentín’s romance exudes the same feel-good energy of Jakrajutatip taking the reins of Miss Universe to, in her words, “evolve the brand for the next generation.” Beauty pageants have often been oriented around cis-heteronormative beauty and desirability standards created by and for the entertainment of straight men. That a pageant could breathe life into a truly beautiful love affair between two queer women wasn’t on my pageant Bingo card, but I’m glad it happened! And I hope that between Jakrajutatip buying Miss Universe and Varela and Valentín’s marriage, there are even more LGBTQ-inclusive moves from the world of international beauty pageants, to come.
Maybe instead of competing against each other, we should all just get married??