First Trans Miss USA Contestant Loses the Pageant, Wins Admiration

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday December 2, 2021
Originally published on December 1, 2021

Kataluna Enriquez — Miss Nevada — failed to reach the pageant's top 16, and so didn't win the title of Miss USA, but she had already made history as the first openly trans Miss USA contestant; and Elle Smith — Miss Kentucky — who took the crown, hailed Enriquez' participation, Insider reported.

Enriquez "was eliminated before the round of 16 at the pageant" on Nov. 30, NBC News reported, though she still made her mark, with fans cheering her on and the Governor of Nevada, Steve Sisolak, taking to Twitter to sing her praises.

"Kataluna represents the best of her community and our state and when she takes the stage, she'll make history!" Gov. Sisolak posted before Enriquez was eliminated.

Enriquez also won plaudits from Sen. Jacky Rosen, who posted, "Kataluna is making history as the first openly transgender woman to compete in Miss USA, and I couldn't think of anyone better to represent the Silver State."

Twitter users spoke glowing of Enriquez' history-making participation in the pageant and her advocacy against the ongoing epidemic of anti-transgender violence.

After Miss Kentucky, Elle Smith, won the pageant, the newly-crowned Miss USA took time to address the fact that Enriquez had been in the running in the first place.

"Kataluna is an absolute gem, and it was an honor to take the stage with her," Smith said in comments made to Insider.

"I see her as a trans woman, but I see her as a woman," Smith went on to add. "She had every right to be on that stage. She was a competitor. She's one of the most amazing people you'll ever meet.

"I think, for her, it was another example of important representation," Smith continued, "and I was so proud to take the stage with her."

Enriquez became the first openly trans contestant to win at the state level last June, when she rose to the top and took the crown as Miss Nevada. Insider recalled that in celebration of Pride Month, Enriquez "wore a rainbow-colored sequin dress".

Even better, the gown — like all of her fashions for the pageant — was the work of her own hands.

"I fought to win so I can represent myself and represent my community," Enriquez said at the time. "It's time that we change the conversation and seat everyone at the table."

Smith will go on to the Miss Universe pageant, which also recognizes trans women as women and allows them to compete.

"So far, only one transgender woman — Miss Spain Angela Ponce in 2018 — has appeared in the" Miss Universe pageant, Insider recalled.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.