updated 9 Nov 2012, 14:50
Login password
Mon, Nov 05, 2012
The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network
Email Print Decrease text size Increase text size
Beauty in the eyes of the third gender
by Ina Parlina

Beauty is not owned by a certain gender. If women can feel beautiful, they can too. “Everyone will try their best tonight,” said Filipino model Miriam Jimenez.

“She’s very thin, she’ll win,” replied Japan’s Beni Tukishima while pointing to Miriam.

The backstage of the Tiffany’s Show in Pattaya, Thailand, on Friday night, once again, was packed with 21 beauties from 15 countries getting ready for the 8th Miss International transvestite transgender beauty contest.

Leha Angel Lelga, Miss Waria Indonesia 2012, was also among the crowd. Her national costume did not stand out among other colorful attire. She wore a simple golden traditional Indonesian kebaya. “This is all I got. But, I’m confident. I feel pretty,” she said.

People must see their beauty, competence and talent above sex preference, said pageant head judge Seri Wongmontha.

Three days before Friday’s final judgment, 15 contestants with best performances showed off their talents in front of the judges.

Beni won the Best Talent award for her Japanese theatrical performance of a woman who lost her hand for the guy she loves.

A contestant performed a Swan Lake ballet, another girl danced Gangnam Style, while others preferred to sing.

Although they smiled, for most of the time that Friday night, these girls said they often still felt the pressure of being different.

Backstage, Leha received several questions from the media since she came from the biggest Muslim majority country. “It’s always hard. But, I always have support from my friends , although some friends scold me,” said the 26-year-old who found herself different at the age of 14.

She said she left home at that age and tried to make her own way while finding who she really was.

A 32-year-old Mexican, Morgana said she was often bullied during her childhood. “So much bullying [...] My friends at school said my voice was very high for a boy,” said Morgana, who is a singer in her home country. She realized she was not a boy at the age of 4.

She stood out singing “Besame Mucho” during the talent night.

“My father hasn’t seen me since I had surgery four years ago,” Morgana said. However, she still has her brothers who love her very much. “My brothers support me. And, I still talk to my father even if it’s only through the phone,” she said.

Many of these contestants pay their own way to compete in the pageant in effort to show the world their existence.

“I am graceful. My friends, even the wife of the subdistrict head, collected money to help me register in this competition,” Leha said.

Kevin Balot, one of the four contestants from the Philippines, cried as she revealed she had to tell her parents that she could not pay for their flights to Thailand. That night, Balot, 21, was crowned Miss International Queen 2012.

“I believe we are equal,” she said.

Leha returned to Indonesia empty-handed but said she was happy she made her way through the pageant. Using her cell phone, she took pictures of Kevin, who sat in the winners chair while answering questions from the media.

Immani Da Silva from Angola, although she said she was relieved, said she would not make another go in pageant. It was her fifth competition across the world. “No more [beauty contests],” she said, adding she would continue her profession in the fashion industry.

But, transvestites and transgender should keep organizing such pageants, she said. “This is more about showing our courage than about a beauty contest,” she said. “Some people don’t understand us. Some people think we are animals.”

“This can show people that we are happy to be who we are, ourselves,” she said. “And it also supports those in the younger generation that might feel different, those who might have experienced similar situations […] just like us.”

readers' comments

Copyright © 2012 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.