A Spanish model has made history as the first transgender woman to compete in the annual Miss Universe competition.
It was first announced that Angela Ponce would be participating in the international beauty pageant in June 2018.
While the 27-year-old wasn’t awarded the crown on Sunday 16 December, which ultimately went to Miss Philippines Catriona Gray, she explained that the significance of taking part was far more important than winning the top prize.
“My hope is for tomorrow to be able to live in a world of equality for everyone, simply for us all to understand that we are human and we must make all our lives easier together,” she said, according to Insider.
“If I can give that to the world, I don’t need to win Miss Universe, I only need to be here.”
Ponce narrowly missed out on reaching the top 20 of the competition.
The Miss Universe organisation paid tribute to the model by screening a special video montage in her honour at the pageant in Bangkok, Thailand.
The video was narrated by model and co-host Ashley Graham, who praised Ponce for encapsulating the attributes expected of a Miss Universe contestant.
“Angela Ponce is everything you’d expect from the reigning Miss Universe,” Graham said, according to E! News.
Many people have been praising the model following her groundbreaking appearance at the pageant, thanking her for representing the transgender community.
“Angela Ponce is a winner already by simply standing in front of a world audience,” one person wrote.
“Defying hate and bigotry. A powerful woman with beauty, advocacy, and a heart. A woman!”
“They dedicated a special segment for Angela Ponce to acknowledge her, and recognise her representation. She is a woman, and in the eyes of the universe, she will always be a woman,” another person tweeted.
“I’m so emotional right now. You made your community proud, Miss Spain!”
In April 2012, the Miss Universe organisation announced that it would be ending its ban on transgender contestants taking part in the competition.
The rules had previously stipulated that only “naturally born females” could compete.
Ponce expressed on Instagram how grateful she felt to be able to take part, writing: “What an honour and pride to be part of the history of @missuniverse.”
She continued, writing: “This is for you, for those who have no visibility, no voice, because we all deserve a world of respect, inclusion and freedom.
“And today I am here, proudly representing my nation, all women and human rights.”
The notion of beauty pageants has been criticised over the years, with some people claiming that they don’t uphold feminist values.
Miss USA model Sarah Rose Summers recently sparked controversy after ridiculing the English-speaking abilities of fellow contestants H’Hen Nie, who represented Vietnam, and Rern Sinat, who represented Cambodia.
After posting a live video on Instagram mocking them, she later apologised, saying: “In a moment where I intended to admire the courage of a few of my sisters, I said something that I now realise can be perceived as not respectful, and I apologise.
“My life, friendships, and career revolve around me being a compassionate and empathetic woman. I would never intend to hurt another.”