Miss Nevada’s first transgender woman winner reflects on historic win

Katalina Enriquez has always loved creating things. “At a young age, I could not play with the toys I wanted,” Enriquez said. “I remember walking up to my sister’s room so I could play with her dolls. I would cut up my socks and turn them into dresses.”

On Sunday night, Enriquez was wearing one of her own creations — a rainbow-colored sequin dress — when she was crowned Miss Nevada, making history as the first transgender woman to do so.

Enriquez, who immigrated from the Philippines with her family at 10, now owns her own fashion business and designs costumes and evening gowns. She’ll spend the next several months preparing to compete for Miss USA in November.

Enriquez recently spoke with the Reno Gazette Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, following her big win and shared her experiences as a transgender woman competing for Miss Nevada.   This interview was edited and condensed for brevity:

What got you interested in fashion and pageantry?

Enriquez: Fortunately, I realized I was not good at math, and I could not be an engineer, which is what I wanted to be when I was young. I was really accelerating on projects where you have to build things, and then, somehow, I just landed into fashion design.

Pageant shows are very inspirational for me. There was a woman who was competing at one point, and her story reflected mine. She didn’t have much when she was growing up. There was a time when she and her family was starving. It was something that resonated with me.

I learned to look beyond her pretty face and her story to understand her as an individual. Oftentimes, people think pageantry is just superficial beauty, but it’s beyond that. The direction of Miss Universe and Miss USA going forward is expanding the definition of beauty and womanhood, which I want to be a part of.

More: Kataluna Enriquez crowned the first openly transgender winner of Miss Nevada USA pageant

What were the steps you took to become Miss Nevada?

Enriquez: In terms of pageantry, there’s the closed-door interview, the on-stage interview, the evening gown, and then there’s the swimsuit competition. But outside of that, I had to work on several things that were involving my past and my childhood traumas.

Communication is very important in the pageantry industry, especially right now. But speaking, at one point in my life, it was an invitation to be attacked and bullied or discriminated (against). I learned to silence myself to survive, allowing me to hate myself and not value myself. At one point, I wanted to die, and I prayed to not wake up.

So, there were just many challenges in terms of childhood trauma I had to overcome to get to where I am now. I’m thankful I was able to do that. I want to share those experiences in life so others can relate and have an understanding.

How did you overcome those challenges and learn to speak out?

Enriquez: Honestly, I have no idea. I was trying to live for someone else. I was tired of trying to please society’s social structure and expectations. Regardless of what I did, there was always someone commenting something. I got tired of that, and I was drained at constantly having to please people. It was about time that I chose to live for myself. It was either that or not live.

Gemma Broadhurst
Gemma Broadhurst is a 23-year-old computing student who enjoys extreme ironing, hockey and duck herding. She is kind and entertaining, but can also be very standoffish and a bit evil.She is an Australian Christian. She is currently at college. studying computing. She is allergic to milk. She has a severe phobia of chickens

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