Kataluna Enriquez, who was crowned Miss Nevada USA on Sunday, will become the first openly transgender woman to compete in the Miss USA pageant.
With a platform centered on transgender awareness and mental health, Enriquez, 27, beat out 21 other contestants at the South Point Hotel Casino in Las Vegas.
“I didn’t have the easiest journey in life,” she said, according to KVVU-TV. “I struggled with physical and sexual abuse. I struggled with mental health. I didn’t have much growing up. I didn’t have support. But I’m still able to thrive, and I’m still able to survive and become a trailblazer for many.”
After her win, Enriquez thanked the LGBTQ community on Instagram, writing, “My win is our win. We just made history. Happy Pride.”
The Miss Nevada USA organization congratulated Enriquez for her historic win on social media and shared the hashtag #bevisible.
In March, Enriquez, who previously competed in trans-specific pageants, became the first transgender woman crowned Miss Silver State USA, the main preliminary for Miss Nevada USA.
During the pageant’s question-and-answer segment, Enriquez said being true to herself was an obstacle she faced daily.
“Today I am a proud transgender woman of color. Personally, I’ve learned that my differences do not make me less than, it makes me more than,” she said, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. “I know that my uniqueness will take me to all my destinations, and whatever I need to go through in life.”
Enriquez, who is Filipina American, designs her own outfits, including a rainbow-sequin gown she wore Sunday night in honor of Pride Month “and all of those who don’t get a chance to spread their colors,” she posted on Instagram.
"Pageantry is so expensive, and I wanted to compete and be able to grow and develop skills and create gowns for myself and other people," Enriquez said, according to the Review-Journal.
She will represent Nevada at the 2021 Miss USA pageant, being held Nov. 29 at the Paradise Cove Theater at the River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The Miss Universe pageant system, of which Los Angeles-based Miss USA is part, began allowing transgender entrants in 2012. If she is crowned Miss USA, Enriquez will be the second trans contestant in a Miss Universe pageant, after Spain’s Angela Ponce in 2018.
Miss America, a separate organization headquartered in New Jersey, did not immediately reply to an inquiry about whether transgender women or nonbinary individuals are allowed to compete in its annual competition. As of 2018, the pageant was reportedly only open to “natural born women,” according to the Advocate.
In February, a federal judge upheld the right of another organization, Nevada-based Miss United States of America, to bar transgender contestants from its pageant.