Holding the title of Miss Spain, Angela Ponce broke barriers as the first-ever transgender woman to compete in the Miss Universe pageant, held on Sunday in Bangkok, Thailand.
The pageant banned transgender competitors until 2012, and, as the Daily Mail reported, Ponce had a message for the pageant’s former owner, U.S. President Donald Trump.
“I always say: having a vagina didn’t transform me into a woman. I am a woman, already before birth, because my identity is here,” she said, pointing to her head.
“Outsiders say what I can and cannot do, what I am and what I am not,” she added. “No, I’m sorry. To be a woman is your identity. It doesn’t matter if you are white, black, if you have a vagina… if you have a penis.”
In her native Spain, Ponce works with a foundation that helps transgender children, and is happy for youngsters to see her as a role model.
“You can empower yourself like I have and turn something negative into your biggest strength,” she explained. “Children are born without prejudices and I think that if we talk to them about diversity from a young age… we can create a new generation of human beings who are raised a lot better, more tolerant and respectful.”
She also has a theory about her burgeoning popularity, explaining that everyone likes to root for the underdog.
“Who hasn’t suffered from prejudice?” she said. “Who hasn’t had to deal with bullying?”
Laverne Cox took to Twitter to congratulate Ponce after the event saw the Philippines’ Catriona Gray be crowned victorious.