Trans women, mothers, plus-sized model join Miss Universe 2023

Meet the women who broke the norm, made waves in Miss Universe 2023

/ 07:57 PM November 18, 2023

Stay tuned for real-time updates from the Miss Universe 2023 event!

Miss Universe 2023 candidates (from left) Images:

Miss Universe 2023 candidates (from left) Portugal’s Marina Machete, Colombia’s Camila Avella, Nepal’s Jane Garrett, Netherlands’ Rikke Kolle, Guatemala’s Michelle Cohn. Images from their respective Instagram accounts

In a powerful move to push for women empowerment, the Miss Universe 2023 pageant opened its doors to transgender women, mothers, and a plus-sized model in its roster of candidates to break ground in representation.

While Angela Ponce of Spain made history as the first trans woman to join the global tilt in 2018, the current edition is said to be an emulation of the international pageant extending their invitations for transgender candidates to participate after the rule regarding biological women was changed in 2012.

The Miss Universe Organization (MUO) also allowed mothers and married women to enter the pageant in 2023, which is considered to be a bold move as the global tilt previously only allowed single women who were never married and “parented a child” to compete. The MUO also scrapped the age limit for aspiring queens earlier this year.


It can be observed that the 72nd edition is perhaps the most, if not one of the most, empowering years to date. Let us meet the candidates who have a story to tell and are paving the way for future aspirants to defy what it truly means to be a transformational woman.


Rikkie Valerie Kollé (Netherlands)

As she touched down in El Salvador earlier this month, Rikkie Valerie Kollé described her Miss Universe journey as a love letter to queer kids in hopes of making them feel seen.

The beauty queen, who was crowned in her national pageant last July, was also noted for her “iron story with a clear vision” by the Netherlands-based jury.

“The universe gave it to me. And I have to help, to be the role model for queer kids, to be seen by them. So if they don’t have the support of the outside world. I can give them a foundation for success,” she said.

Per BBC, Kolle’s love for pageantry started when she was an “insecure little boy” and she hopes to be the voice of trans women who are struggling to find their place in society.

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A post shared by Rikkie Valerie Kollé (@rikkievaleriekolle)

The beauty queen’s admirable strength can be credited to her mother who “always loved [her] just the way” she was. “It doesn’t matter if I played more with the dolls than the cars. How she protected me from being bullied as much as possible. Those are the things I will remember forever.”


“I had no one to look up to, to find recognition in. Even in 2023, it’s still happening. We still judge someone’s identity or gender,” she continued. “Live and let live. It still happens and I’m here to help change that.”

Marina Machete (Portugal)

Another trans woman candidate making history is 28-year-old Marina Machete who works as a flight attendant in her home country.

After being crowned as Portugal’s representative in the global tilt, Machete pointed out that her victory was not about her, but it was about showing how love can be “stronger than ignorance.”

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A post shared by Ms Portugal ® (@missportugaloficial)

“As a trans woman, I’ve been through many obstacles along the way. But fortunately, and especially with my family, love proved to be stronger than ignorance,” she wrote on Instagram last October.

The human rights and gender equality advocate also hopes to use the global tilt’s platform to speak up about the challenges that trans women go through in hopes of being accepted in society.

Michelle Cohn (Guatemala)

Michelle Cohn is the first married woman with children to be crowned as Miss Universe Guatemala 2023 last August, where she thanked the universe for “giving [her] a chance” to represent her country.

“A little over a year ago, I would have thought this was impossible and today I am here looking to be the first mother to represent Guatemala to the universe. Here I am today, once again proving what we as women can accomplish,” she wrote in Spanish on Instagram.

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A post shared by Michelle Cohn (@michellecohnb)

A model, TV host, and entrepreneur by profession, Cohn is happily married to Andres Matheu and they have a son named Luca and a daughter called Bella. Throughout her Miss Universe journey, her family has been vocal about their support as the beauty queen shares glimpses of them being witness to her path to the crown on social media.

“I [want to] represent the beautiful women of my country, who we have shown over the years that we are the ones who mark the change in every step we take,” she said.

Camila Avella (Colombia)

Another married woman raising a child hoping to win Miss Universe 2023 is 28-year-old Camila Avella from Colombia.

Following her coronation in her national pageant last September, Avella thanked her husband Nassif Kamle and daughter Amelia who transformed her into the woman she’s “meant to be.”

“Without them, and without the teachings that leave me each day to day, none of this would be possible, nor would it be the woman I am today,” she wrote on Instagram.

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A post shared by Camila Avella M🌞 (@camiavellam)

She also spoke on the importance of allowing mothers to continue with their lives on social media, as she stressed that women can fulfill “all the roles [they] have in life and be successful” no matter where they come from.

“When [my daughter Amelia] was born, it also strengthened the desire in me to achieve the best version of myself,” she said. “I want to show the universe how capable we women are and be an example and inspiration that being a mother does not limit us to working.”

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Jane Garrett (Nepal)

Jane Dipika Garrett made history as the first plus-sized candidate to compete in the global tilt and recently emerged as one of the fan favorites during the preliminary competition.

Pushing for body positivity, Garrett told Hola Magazine that her foray into the competition is a bid to “represent all women” while breaking “outdated stereotypes of beauty” in pageantry.

“As a curvy woman who doesn’t follow certain beauty standards, I’m here to represent all women. I think there’s not one way to be beautiful, every woman is beautiful just as they are,” she was quoted as saying.

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A post shared by Jane Garrett (@jadedipika_)

The 22-year-old also briefly opened up about her struggles with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) on Instagram in hopes of reminding fellow women that it’s “okay” to celebrate the changes in their bodies.

“Women go through so many different changes in their body. I’m going through a PCOS change and that’s okay,” she wrote. “It’s time to celebrate the different changes in women’s bodies and embrace all our shapes and sizes.”

TAGS: Miss Universe, Miss Universe 2023

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