Ponce beat out 22 competitors in June for the title of Miss Spain, telling MSN that she hoped to use her new platform to advocate for trans equality. “If my going through all this contributes to the world moving a little step forward, then that’s a personal crown that will always accompany me,” she said.
While beauty pageants aren’t necessarily the place most are looking to for social change and queer representation, Ponce’s historic run is especially noteworthy in light of the controversy surrounding Victoria’s Secret’s casting practices for their own historic runway show.
Ponce told TIME in November that “the fashion industry likes to talk about freedom and creativity. But many times I’ve gone to a casting and they’ve given me the job, and then later my agency calls and says they’ve changed their minds, because they’ve found out I’m a trans woman. I would just burst into tears.”
“My hope for tomorrow is to be able to live in a world of equality for everyone,” she said during a segment that played after the pageant finalists gave their opening statements. “Simply for us all to understand that we are human and we must make all our lives easier together. That reality for many people is going to change. If I can be that to the world, I don’t need to be Miss Universe, I only need to be here.”