Defying standards: Transwomen, mother, plus-size candidates grace Miss Universe stage

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 17) — For the first time, transwomen, mothers, and a plus-size model got to flaunt their beauty at the 72nd edition of the global pageant as its preliminary rounds kick off in El Salvador on Thursday.

As one of the most prestigious beauty competitions, the Miss Universe pageant has been evolving by finding ways to answer calls for diversity, inclusivity and representation of all women.

While the first transgender candidate made history competing in the 2018 Miss Universe, this year's edition is the first to host more than one transwoman representative.

This year also breaks ground as the first to accommodate two mothers after the organization revised its rules allowing only single women. The pageant also hosts its lone plus-size model and welcomes a new country into the mix of representatives.

Here's what to know about the candidates and their initial pageant performance.

Nepal - Jane Dipika Garrett

Nepal's Jane Dipika Garrett trended on social media early during the preliminary competition as she boldly displayed her plus-size curves in the swimsuit and evening gown events.

The crowd would go wild with applause whenever the 22-year-old walked on stage, shattering barriers and proving that beauty has no limits.

Garrett advocates body positivity, mental health, and hormonal issues, an issue many fans say is timely in today's social media scene.

Guatemala - Michelle Cohn

Michelle Cohn is the first married woman to win the Miss Universe Guatemala crown and the first mother to qualify for the 2023 pageant.

The 28-year-old queen is a proud mom of two – a son and a daughter – and a wife to supportive husband Andres Mattheu.

The Guatemalan native is vocal about her family, calling them her joy and strength in her social media platforms.

“A little over a year ago, I would have thought this was impossible and today, I am here looking to be the first mother to represent Guatemala to the universe,” she wrote in Spanish.

“Here I am today, once again proving what we as women can accomplish,” she said.

Colombia - Maria Camila Avella Montañez

Camila Avella is the first married Colombian queen and the second mother to vie for the 72nd Miss Universe crown.

Miss Universe Colombia's main inspiration for joining the prestigious event is her family, especially her daughter – Amelia.

The 28-year-old beauty proudly posts about her family life and writes open letters to her toddler.

With her win as a “historic achievement” for her country, Avella vowed that she will represent the “beauty, strength, and talent” of Colombia in the Miss Universe 2023 pageant.

Netherlands - Rikkie Valerie Kollé

Model and queen Rikkie Valerie Kollé made history as the first transwoman to represent the Netherlands in the Miss Universe stage.

Kollé, in the Miss Netherlands website, said she wants to be a role model for young women and queer people after she endured the challenges which came with coming out as transgender.

“As a little boy, I conquered all the things that came through my path. And look at me now, standing here as a strong, empowering, and confident transwoman. Love is love. Be who you want to be,” she said in a video.

Portugal - Marina Machete

Portuguese beauty queen Marina Machete made trans representation in the Miss Universe stage stronger this year after qualifying as the first transwoman in her country to take a shot at the international crown.

The flight attendant is also the first transwoman to be crowned as Miss Universe Portugal, advocating for trans rights and raising awareness on the “rising levels of transphobia.”

“As a trans woman, I've been through many obstacles along the way. But fortunately, and especially with my family, love proved to be stronger than ignorance,” she said in a video.

Pakistan - Erica Robin

The Miss Universe organization for the first time welcomed a Pakistani representative in the fold with Erica Robin, the historic first-ever winner of the Miss Universe Pakistan 2023.

The 24-year-old model will be the first to vie for the elusive crown, eyeing to further make history as the first to win a Miss Universe title for the conservative country.

For the swimsuit competition, Erica made a statement wearing a blush colored burkini – standing out among her competitors.

Catch these contestants vie for the Miss Universe Mouawad crown during the preliminary National Costume costume rounds on Friday and the coronation night on Sunday (PH Time).