MEXICO CITY — The contestants in the beauty pageant sashayed in red bathing suits, paraded across the stage in evening gowns with plunging necklines and answered questions about climate change and human rights.
After four hours, and a brief protest onstage by a losing contestant, a brunette from the western Mexico state of Colima took the crown. Ivanna Cázares flashed a smile as the announcer declared her Miss Trans Beauty Mexico 2019.
It was the second edition of the pageant, which was begun as part of an effort to make transgender women more visible and accepted in Mexican society. Mexico is one of the world's most dangerous countries for transgender people: 261 transgender women were killed from 2013 to 2018, according to a local LGBTQ rights group, Letra S.
The weekend event was full of glamour and glitz, with contestants sporting elaborate regional costumes and heavy makeup. Miss Colima modeled an indigenous-themed costume with leopard print and feathers, while Miss Baja California's costume featured grapes, inspired by her state's wine vineyards.
In all, 21 transgender beauty queens representing different Mexican states participated in the three-part competition. They were judged on bikini wear, regional dress and formal wear.
Cázares, 27, beat second-place Miss Baja California and third-place Miss Mexico City to win the crown.
Cázares said the most difficult part of her transition that began three years ago was gaining acceptance from others, although she always counted on support from her family. She has a communications degree and owns a beauty salon.
Now, with the pageant title, she sees herself as a spokeswoman for the transgender community.
"We want to bring a message to society of respect for the trans girls of Mexico," Cázares told The Associated Press while struggling to keep the towering crown on her head.