Transgender contestant falls short at Miss Universe Canada
Jenna Talackova came up short Saturday in her bid to win the Miss Universe Canada and become the first transgendered title holder.
The 23-year-old blond from Vancouver was one of the final 12 contestants, but failed to make the final five at the pageant, held in Toronto.
Another Vancouver contestant, Sahar Biniaz, 26, claimed the crown and advances to the international Miss Universe competition in December. Talackova was one of four contestants named Miss Congeniality.
A panel of 15 judges including celebrity designers Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan, actress Kristin Booth and singer Kreesha Turner picked the winner.
Talackova's lawyer Gloria Allred said during Saturday's pageant that Talackova shouldn't feel too disappointed.
"She's still a winner as far as I'm concerned," Allred said during an intermission. "She won an 'herstoric' civil rights victory and that I think is frankly more important than anything, any victory she would win, even representing Miss Canada."
Talackova was born Walter Talackova and under went a sex change operation four years ago.
She was initially barred from competing because she was born male. Pageant owner Donald Trump allowed her to compete, over-ruling the earlier decision.
Talackova was the first transgender competitor to seek the Miss Universe Canada crown and attracted extensive media coverage during the run up to Saturday night's final.
Hurdles for transgender contestants elsewhere
Her civil rights breakthrough at Miss Universe Canada may not be universal, however.
Miss Universe publicity director Brenda Mendoza said transgender competitors are welcome at all of its pageants around the world. But she said it's being left to the individual franchises to determine if the recent policy change is carried out.
Lawyer Allred said the Miss Universe organization has not been explicit enough in its position to permit transgender contenders, and called on Trump to take a clear stand against discrimination, no matter where it takes place.
"We would like Donald Trump to be the leader in this civil rights battle and say that even if there are no laws protecting against discrimination we — the Miss Universe Organization — we are going to lead the way and say that it is wrong to discriminate," says Allred, who flew to Toronto from Los Angeles to support Talackova at the pageant.
Mendoza said it's too soon to say how the Canadian precedent will play out at other pageants, and how Miss Universe would respond if a transgender hopeful was excluded.
"We're still educating our global franchisees on this.... This is all so new that we're still updating them and briefing them and getting feedback from them," Mendoza said Friday from Las Vegas, where she was preparing for the June 3 Miss USA competition.
In the meantime, she said the Miss Universe organization is "leaving it up to each franchise to determine how they want to handle it."
"You look at a country like Egypt which is very conservative — and we do have a Miss Egypt — and it becomes a much bigger cultural issue for them," Mendoza said.
"I don't know what the status is in that country and what they're going to be doing."