Miss Nevada USA 2021 Kataluna Enriquez. (Bryan Steffy/Getty Images)
Fans sent a wave of love and support to Kataluna Enriquez, the first openly transgender Miss USA contestant, after she was eliminated from the competition on Monday (29 November).
Kataluna Enriquez, 28, made history when she was crowned Miss Nevada USA in June, which automatically qualified her as a contestant for the prestigious Miss USA pageant. The competition, which stretches all the way back to 1952, has never had an out transgender woman compete.
Enriquez, who produces her own line of designer clothes, won Miss Nevada USA wearing a rainbow sequin dress that payed homage to Pride month.
Coming into the Miss USA competition, she decided to turn it up a notch.
“My previous gown has become such an iconic dress, and I wanted to challenge myself into creating another unforgettable moment,” she said in a new video posted to her Instagram page.
Her Miss USA dress – which features 10,000 colourful stones applied in a beautiful flame-like pattern – is a “recreation” of the original. “The colors are our diversity that makes us unique and powerful,” said Enriquez.
“Wherever life takes us, one thing people can’t take away from you is your pride,” she added.
Although Enriquez was eliminated at the last hurdle and didn’t make it into the final 16, fans took to social media with heartfelt encouragements and accolades.
Kataluna Enriquez failed to penetrate the Top 16 of Miss USA 2021… She still made history by being the first Trans woman to ever compete in the Miss USA pageant. We are so proud of you, Queen????️????????️⚧️???? pic.twitter.com/8UVeJjucpx— Matthew ???? (@MatthewTan22) November 30, 2021
Supporters were also keen to point out the extra barriers she faced in the competition as a trans woman of colour.
So proud of Kataluna Enriquez and you are a winner in the hearts of the LGBT and Filipino community. Others may not be able to see your value because they can't empathize the bravery & amount of work it took for a trans woman of color to do such big things in this world. #proud pic.twitter.com/KEBAOOg1IF— Nick (@nickfad) November 30, 2021
Miss USA is not ready to crown a transwoman of color, that's it.
If they allowed Kataluna Enriquez, Miss Nevada 2021, to make it to Top 16, she would have nailed every segment including that new casual interview round and be one of the last woman standing. #MissUSA2021— 赎买 (@heyitsmealexis) November 30, 2021
Although Enriquez’ landmark achievement as the first out trans woman to compete in Miss USA has drawn predictable anti-trans critique from some corners, she’s been met overwhelmingly with love. Fans include queer icons Alexis Mateo and Jiggly Caliente, as well as political figures such as Nevada governor Steve Sisolak and senator Jacky Rosen.
Enriquez began her career by competing in transgender pageants, but since moving into more typically cis-centred competitions, she’s used the larger platform to challenge hate and champion inclusivity and diversity.
She may not have won Miss USA, but her message resonates beyond the competition. “Wherever life takes us, one thing people can’t take away from you is your pride,” she said in her most recent social media post.