Half-Filipina beauty queen Arielle Keil made history as the first transgender woman slated to represent New Zealand at the upcoming Miss Intercontinental 2020.
When she took the spotlight during this year’s Miss New Zealand pageant—all tan lithe limbs and radiant blowout—it was easy to see why she was favored to win the competition. She wowed the judges in a stunning green terno at the preliminaries and was impeccably gorgeous at photo shoots.
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Very proud of my friend Ari for winning Miss Intercontinental New Zealand 2020. It was fun working on this design together for her to wear when the Judges met her for the first time. Congratulations on taking the crown @arielle.keil
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Keil’s candidacy is historic. Being on the stage as an openly transgender woman in a role that’s traditionally been held up as the ultimate embodiment of womanhood is impressive. “I have a new perspective on life. I have more drive and ambition and a better head on my shoulders. For the longest time, I felt like I had to prove my femininity and womanhood to the world. I’m now liberated of that. I’m grateful for every single experience during Miss New Zealand,” she said in a post.
Keil’s entry in the Miss Intercontinental 2020 is the first in New Zealand for a transgender woman, and just the second in the world. Miss Universe Spain Angela Ponce is the world’s first transgender woman to compete on the international stage in 2018.
To get to know more about Keil, PhilSTAR L!fe did an exclusive interview with her where she talked about her historic journey thus far:
PhilSTAR L!fe: You made history as the first transwoman to win the Miss Intercontinental New Zealand pageant. How did you get there?
Arielle Keil: It started off as a small dream that I kept to myself. And honestly if you told me before where I would be now, I wouldn’t have believed you! At that time, it seemed like such a far-fetched dream, but now this dream is my reality! I worked super hard—even before I was eligible to enter I would practice my walk, my Q&A, etc. I can not articulate in words how badly I wanted this. But at the same time, it was far from easy and there’s been so many times I wanted to give up because it seemed like it was never gonna happen. But here I am, and I’m so grateful and happy.
PL: How supportive were your family?
AK: My ate is my biggest supporter. She’s my rock and my best friend. She’s been nothing but loving and proud of me. She has always been there since I was born and throughout my pageant journey. Meanwhile, my papa observed from the sidelines at first because I think he wanted to gauge how serious I was about this. But since seeing the work I’ve put in and how far I’ve come, I’ve won his support and he’s told me many times that he’s so proud of me.
PL: How do you shut out negativity as you prepare for the international stage?
AK: During my nationals a story about me being the first transgender woman to compete in a beauty pageant in New Zealand was posted nationwide and I received a lot of nasty comments online and I cried and was miserable for days. But after all that, I reminded myself that I worked too hard to get to where I am to let the bashers get the best of me. I’ve seen and heard all the nasty comments before. It’s repetitive and no longer has an effect on me. I see them and I feel nothing. I’m more focused on the people that love and support me and my journey!
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A post shared by ARIELLE KEIL (ARI) (@arielle.keil) on
PL: What’s the one question you’re tired of being asked as a transgender woman?
AK: I love speaking out about my transition and educating people but I hate publicly answering things too personal about gender reassignment surgery, etc. As transgender people, we are more than the gender-affirming surgeries we’ve had. We have a story, a voice, and a brain just like any other human.
PL: What kind of beauty queen do you want the people to remember you as?
AK: I don’t want to be remembered as ‘the transgender beauty queen.’ Through hard work and persistence, I want to be known as the queen who had a killer performance internationally and used her platform to change lives and she just so happened to be transgender. I’m more than just a novelty or a token and I want to show that to the world! I am proud to be a transgender and I will always advocate for my community. Being transgender isn’t what makes me special—there is so much more to me than that.
Photo from Robin Smith and Julia Francino Dubor