azell Barbie Royale was selected as this year’s Miss International Queen, a beauty pageant for transgender women from across the globe, earlier this month in Thailand.
Thailand has a strong and thriving LGBTQ community, a report by the USAID reported that citizens of the country became to identify as transgender during the 14th century. According to the South China Morning Post, Royale, 31, became the first Black contestant to be crowned in the pageant’s nearly 15-year history.
The 31-year-old is a community leader and HIV activist, who also took home the Best Talent Award. She wants to use her new platform to promote safe sex, routine medical care and the importance of HIV testing.
The Florida native edged out 19 women from across the globe including Peru and Brazil. Kanwara Kaewjin of Thailand took home second place and Chinese participant Yaya was in third place.
Royale’s international win came at a time following the U.S. Supreme Court’s January ruling, which allowed President Donald Trump’s transgender military ban. During the pageant, she urged that the president not run in the 2020 presidential election.
During a March 7 interview with Travel News Asia, the Beauty Queen spoke about her doubts and the importance of a darkskinned woman participating in the pageant.
“It was hard coming here to Thailand to compete for this pageant because there is no one else in the past that has won that looked like me.” Royale stated. “So that was king of hard and sometimes I’ve always had my doubts, my feelings like am I wasting my time? Will I be treated equally? Will I even be considered to be the winner?”
The Miss International Queen wants people to learn that trans people deserve the same love and respect as cisgendered individuals, people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth.
“I want them to see that we’re beautiful, we’re educated, we’re talented, and we can maneuver in society just like anyone else,” Royale said.
Watch the pageant below.