Kataluna Enriquez, who is the first-ever transgender woman to win Miss Nevada USA, has spoken out on overcoming challenges to claim her title.
Kataluna made history on June 27th by winning the title of Miss Nevada USA and becoming the first transgender contestant who would compete in the Miss USA competition. Kataluna, who is Filipina American, then went on to win the competition at the South Point Hotel Casino in Las Vegas.
"I am so happy and grateful to be Miss Nevada USA 2021 and represent our state Nevada in this year's Miss USA," Kataluna told Good Morning America, as per ABC News. "This has been one of my longest dreams and I am happy to share it with my community, especially the LGBTQ+ youth."
"When I was young, I always said, 'I wish I could see someone like me on that stage,'" she continued. "That's something that I always didn't have growing up and to be able to give that to other people, that's one of my hopes in life to just be able to represent and create a positive change for those who haven't always had those moments in life."
Miss Nevada USA even congratulated Kataluna in an Instagram post: "Good Morning W O R L D! The Universe rather... Congratulations to @msKataluna for her historical win!!!"
Kataluna started competing in transgender pageants in 2015 and later competed in cisgender pageants where she had to overcome several challenges.
"When I started competing with cisgender women or the Miss USA organization, there was one competition where I was asked to provide documents that I think were invasive and were singling me out," the beauty queen revealed. "Also, I was not provided roommates, regardless of my identity."
Kataluna said she had to provide pageant organizers with legal orders, doctor's notes, and her identification card verifying that she is a female.
"It was basically just refusing me to be there, so that's one of the experiences I've experienced," she said.
"There's a lot of backlash that I'm receiving and I think I want to use this time to really educate people on what it means to be trans, on what it means to be part of the LGBTQ+ community," she continued. "And I think there's still a lack of representation in being a trans woman of color and being a Southeast Asian American."
She plans to use her life experiences "as a trans woman of color, and as a woman who is a survivor of physical and sexual abuse" to shape her platform called #BEVISIBLE, which aims to tackle hate.
"I've learned that people just take advantage of our vulnerable moments and use it to kind of belittle us and dehumanize us but in reality, it's what makes us connect as humans," Kataluna explained. "My goal this time is to expand my platform for other people and have them share their stories so we can create a world where everyone is aware of things and we can have positive conversations and not let anyone who is experiencing difficultness or different situations in life to feel like they are less than."
She also serves as a healthcare admin specializing in LGBTQ+ care as well as being a model, and an owner of her own clothing line called Kataluna Kouture.