International beauty pageant elevates trans voices

beauty pageant crown
Photo: Adobe Stock

The original version of this story incorrectly stated that Jack Neilsen was the founder of Integrity Staffing Solutions. Todd Bavol is the founder and CEO of the agency.

Trans women have been shining queens for years, but in 2024, one woman will be crowned Miss International Queen USA.

Funded by the US-based LGBTQ+ nonprofit Be the Transformational Change Fund, Miss International Queen USA will be the home for members of the trans community to reign and compete for Miss International Queen, the world’s largest and most prestigious beauty pageant for transgender women. The pageant launched in part thanks to help from Todd Bavol, the founder and CEO of locally based agency Integrity Staffing Solutions.

For Jack Neilsen, who serves as the national director of the pageant, the opportunity to continue elevating voices in the community was a no-brainer.

Neilsen’s support started early in life. He always looked out for his trans siblings and best friend, a woman of trans experience, who lost her life to a sudden brain aneurysm after major surgery. From then on, he knew it was his goal to continue giving a voice to those who don’t have one.

“But it was also at that point that it was also my mission to ensure that those who don’t have a voice will continue to have a voice,” Neilsen said. “So, when this opportunity was presented to me, I ran with it, because it gives me the opportunity to potentially make a difference with someone.”

The mission of the pageant is to “elevate LGBTQIA+ and Transgender awareness and equality in both society and the workforce. All monetary profits of the pageant will go towards programs to drive change for the LGBTQIA+ community,” according to the website. 

What this might look like, according to Neilsen, is to have their titleholders make a difference and be involved with community relations. Since pageantry is a small part of the contestant’s life, the pageant will also give trans women tools and skills needed in life, like communication skills.

“Even if one person thrives because they have gotten a great resume, and they’re able to secure lasting employment, and retirement funds and things like that, our mission has become successful,” Neilsen said.

Pageants have a certain reputation or criteria to be beautiful, and our society moved past the need for “just pretty.” The Miss International Queen USA pageant aims to diminish that thought through its visibility and acceptance.

“We are open to all trans women,” Neilsen said. “We’re open to trans women of color. We’re open to trans women of size. It’s up to them if they feel comfortable competing. And we embrace everybody, and everybody has their story. And everybody deserves to have their story told.”

To back this, Neilsen described the criteria that will be used to judge the contestants, based on service, advocacy and the other traditional pageant categories like evening gown and private interview.

Not only does the winner walk away with a crown and sash, but also the ability to spend a year throughout the country advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, doing community service and meeting with the media.

“So, they will have a full year to be visible throughout the entire country. It will be a lot of reaching out to all of our press contacts and working with everybody around the country to gain some press coverage and visibility on whatever local news shows or even national news shows that we can tap into.” Neilsen said. “[We are] really working around the country to tap into those research organizations that may not have somebody that has that voice.”

Miss International Queen USA will be the staple fundraising event for Be the Transformational Change. The organization’s goal is to create lasting solutions for employment barriers, social injustice, homelessness and for the LGBTQ+ community. More ways to donate and volunteer, in addition to pageant participation can be found on their website.

As an organization, Be the Transformational Change wants to remind people that trans women and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole are just here living their lives and that they are beautiful. The Miss International Queen USA will hope to inspire the trans community to show that there is someone just like them in this national role.

“To know that somebody’s out there, just like them and that we now have the ability to create that visibility for those individuals,” Neilsen said. “It’s going to change somebody’s life.” 

The Tri-State sees huge pageant participation among the Miss USA and Miss America competitions, but now, Miss International Queen will join the pageant sisterhood locally and across the country in 2024. 

The Miss International Queen USA’s major press kickoff and gala launch will be held Nov. 11 in Las Vegas. Melony Munro, the reigning Miss International Queen USA will be in attendance as she looks to crown the next queen to represent the USA at the 2024 Miss International Queen pageant in Pattaya, Thailand.

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