MUST SEE: See photos from Thailand's transgender beauty pageant
Thailand's Miss Tiffany Universe is like many other beauty pageants in most respects — the glittering gowns, perfect hair, and bright smiles are exactly what you would expect in a pageant. What sets this particular competition apart, however, is that the Miss Tiffany Universe pageant is the most popular transgender pageant in the world. Learn how this pageant began and see photos from the contest below.
Miss Tiffany Universe started in 1998 as a way of helping increase acceptance for Thailand's large transgender population. Alisa Phanthusak, the pageant chair, started Miss Tiffany after seeing how difficult life was for transgender people in Thailand. Many of them were forced into the sex trade after being blocked from other fields of work, and they face widespread stereotypes, like the idea that transgender individuals have violent tempers.
This year, there are 100 contestants who will compete for 30 spots in the show's final rounds in March. You can see photos from last year's contest, including winner Sopida Siriwatananukul, below.
Over the 18 years since the pageant first began, the pageant's organizers have already seen cultural changes. According to Phanthusak, "At first, most of the contestants were in the show or in the sex business....But now, since 18 years ago, when we began, we have mostly university students. More and more they want to try hard — not only beauty but also getting their degrees."