For all the talk of very real and toxic heteronormative beauty standards, it seems one beauty pageant might be primed to burn it all down.
On Tuesday, the Miss Universe organization announced that Thai tycoon Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip, a trans woman, has bought the pageant for $20 million. The purchase makes Jakkaphong the first woman owner—and first trans owner—of the Miss Universe Organization, according to CNN.
Jakkaphong is the CEO of JKN Global Group PCL, a Thailand-based media distribution company, and has appeared in the Thai versions of reality shows like Project Runway. Most importantly, however, the pageant’s new owner is an outspoken trans rights advocate. And because Miss USA sends women contestants from all over the country to Miss Universe, one of the most internationally recognized pageants in the world, that means something.
Jakkaphong said she was “incredibly honored” to purchase the organization. “We seek not only to continue its legacy of providing a platform to passionate individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and traditions, but also to evolve the brand for the next generation,” she said.
In a joint statement, the CEO and president of the Miss Universe Organization said they were “excited to continue the evolution of the Miss Universe Organization with JKN” and that their “progressive approach continues to position us at the forefront of our industry.”
Donald Trump, a man who definitely should not have had access to so many young women, sold the Miss Universe Organization, including Miss USA and Miss Teen USA, to the talent agency WME/IMG in September of 2015. Pageants are cash cows that often get scooped up by people who know nothing about the industry or have no intent to protect and improve the women’s experiences. The industry is rife with scandals, sexual harassment cases, and rampant mistreatment. And Miss Universe only lifted its ban on trans contestants in 2012 because a trans Canadian contestant threatened legal action.
Putting a powerful trans woman at the helm of Miss Universe, then, is the biggest fuck you to Trump and anyone else who wanted to limit pageants to cis women. It also means American viewers can’t deny the excellence and beauty of trans people, considering Jakkaphong now has the power to redefine judging standards and find ways to make contestants like herself feel welcome and empowered within the space.