• May 19, 2020
Arielle Keil is the first transgender beauty pageant contestant in NZ, and just the second in the world. Photo: supplied
Arielle Keil has aspired to be a pageant queen for as long as she can remember.
Three years ago, before her gender transition, she thought she never would achieve that dream.
"Now here I am,” the 26-year-old said.
Arielle, whose entry into Miss New Zealand has been accepted, is the first to compete as transgender in New Zealand, and just the second in the world.
Despite her concern about people not accepting her entry, Arielle has been overwhelmed with the support from the competition directors and her fellow contestants.
“My dad and sister get really sensitive over this stuff but I have had nothing but support from the organisation,” Arielle said.
Like all contestants, Arielle is keenly waiting to hear if the 2020 pageant will go ahead, despite the Covid-19 crisis.
Rose Foulger, director of Miss New Zealand, said she “felt liberated to break the stigma” faced by transgender women and had no hesitations in having Arielle compete for the New Zealand title, and hopefully, internationally.
“Having moved away from the Miss World organisation, we have been able to update our rules to align with society and bring our pageant to the 21st Century,” Ms Foulger said.
Arielle and Ms Foulger both say they believe pageants are still behind the times but in the 21st Century, Ms Foulger argues “anything is possible”.
If Arielle is to place in the top five in Miss New Zealand and compete internationally, Miss Intercontinental is now the only global beauty pageant that accepts transgender contestants.
Ms Foulger said while this could be a “restriction for Arielle”, she is trying to negotiate with other pageants to accept transgender contestants.
Arielle hopes to be a positive role model for young transgender women, something she never had in her childhood.
“I would love to tell trans people life can feed us to the wolves but you can push through, and don't give up. Don’t change your view of the world,” she said.
“I was kicked out of home when I first transitioned but I always believed I need to invest in the woman I want to be and that's what I did.”
The world's first transgender contestant was Ángela Maria Ponce Camacho, whose history-making achievements included a first place at Miss Universe Spain in 2018.