This year’s Miss Universe pageant has already sparked transgender controversy this year. Now the company responsible for the beauty pageant – JKN Global Group – is filing for bankruptcy. It is a multinational conglomerate based in Thailand.
Thai entrepreneur and transgender activist Anne Jakarjutatip of JKN Global Group purchased the 2022 Miss Universe organization for $20 million. At the time, Jakarjutatip, who gained international fame as a transgender celebrity, spoke of “strong, strategic growth in our portfolio.” A year later, the franchise itself seems shaky.
In November 2023, JKN Global Group filed for bankruptcy. In a public letter to the Thai Stock Exchange, the group said it had submitted an application for corporate restructuring to the Central Bankruptcy Court on November 8, 2023. The Miss Universe Organization then released a statement: “Despite the “current financial situation”, “Miss Universe 2023 will take place in El Salvador on November 18, 2023.” “A first-class experience for our fans remains our top priority.”
This year’s Miss Universe pageant will include at least two transgender people who identify as women for the first time: flight attendant Marina Machete, Miss Portugal, and Rikki Kole, the first transgender Miss Netherlands. They follow Spaniard Angela Ponce, who was the first transsexual participant in the election in 2018 but did not make it to the final round.
Machete released a video in September lamenting that “the rising levels of transphobia and intolerance around the world are worrying.” However, it is “heart-warming” to see that “the Miss Universe Organization is so inclusive, crossing boundaries and creating a platform for women to empower not only themselves, but their own communities.” It’s also making a real difference.”
In the same spirit, the Miss Universe Organization also told CNN after Miss Portugal was crowned in October: “Trans women are women, without exception. We’re here to celebrate ladies, period. This has been true for over a decade and we are proud that we made this change much earlier than other programs.”