A biological male who identifies as a transgender woman will represent Portugal at the 72nd Miss Universe pageant, bringing the total number of transgender competitors to two.
Marina Machete is a 28-year-old flight attendant who won Miss Portugal and will now advance to Miss Universe in November in El Salvador.
“I’m so excited to meet all the other delegates from around the world and to continue my social projects here in Portugal up until the competition starts,” said Machete in a video on Instagram after being crowned.
“To all of you watching, I just want to say that, just like the universe, your possibilities in life are limitless,” Machete added. “So don’t limit yourself to any dream that you have.”
Machete is the second transgender-identifying competitor to secure a place at the upcoming international competition.
The Netherlands will be represented by Rikkie Valerie Kollé, a 22-year-old who was crowned in July.
“I want to be a voice and role model for all young women and queer people,” Kollé said in a statement published by USA Today. “I know better than anyone else what it’s like to feel alone and not be surrounded by only positive thoughts.”
The international competition changed its rules in 2012 in order to permit biological males who identify as transgender women to compete. The first transgender-identifying person to compete in the Miss Universe pageant was Daniela Arroyo González, who represented Spain in 2018.
The Miss Universe Pageant was purchased by transgender-identifying Thai media entrepreneur Jakkaphong “Anne” Jakrajutatip in October of 2022 for $20 million.
“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,” Jakrajutatip said in a statement at the time.
While speaking at an event in New Orleans in January, Jakrajutatip said the Miss Universe pageant was now in a “new era” as a “global women’s empowerment platform.”
“From now on it’s gonna be run by women, owned by a trans woman, for all women around the world to celebrate the power of feminism,” said Jakrajutatip. “Diverse cultures, social inclusion, gender equality, creativity, a force for good, and, of course, the beauty of humanity.”
Granting biological males access to pageants that are part of the Miss Universe circuit has not been universally embraced. The Miss Italy competition banned transgender-identifying competitors as well as anyone who has undergone plastic surgery.
In November of 2022, a United States court ruled that the Miss USA pageant does not have to admit transgender competitors as it would prevent the organization from freely expressing its “ideal vision of American womanhood” and therein violate the First Amendment. Miss USA was sued in 2019 by a transgender-identifying person who argued the organization’s standards constituted gender discrimination.