Beauty queen Jenna Talackova will be interviewed and profiled on ABC’s 20/20 tonight at 10 p.m. Eastern Time.
Talackova, whose family hails from Babine Lake Nation, the third-largest aboriginal group in British Columbia, has been fighting for her right to compete in ways she never had to fight to become a girl.
Self-identifying as female at age 4, Talackova began hormone treatments as a teen and received gender reassignment surgery at age 19. Her parents supported her decision—her mother appears with her on 2o/20—and her community donated $2,500 toward her Miss Universe bid, according to the Vancouver Sun.
There was never any question growing up.
“I just always knew that I was not what they were saying,” said Talackova, who was originally named Walter, in the 20/20 interview. “It was not right. I was not in the right body.”
Classmates, interviewed by the Vancouver Sun, said the same.
“It was very obvious,” said Teruko Walker of her 11th-grade impressions of Talackova’s looks and demeanor back in high school. “It wasn’t like she looked like a boy but acted like a girl. She very much looked like a female.”
Thus Talackova was stunned by her disqualification, she said on April 3, sitting next to prominent U.S. attorney Gloria Allred at a press conference announcing possible legal action.
“I am a woman,” she said in a statement. “I was devastated and I felt that excluding me for the reason that they gave was unjust.”
Now Talackova has not only won the right to compete but also seems to have reversed the rule, as she wanted: Miss Universe pageant owner Donald Trump has rescinded the clause saying that contestants must be a “natural-born female.”
“I feel like the universe, the Creator, just put me in this position as an advocate, and now it’s like this, and I’ll take that position,” Talackova told broadcast journalist Barbara Walters in an interview for ABC’s 20/20. “If it’s helping anybody else, my story and my actions, then I feel great about it.”
It’s not clear whether she will compete, even though she has been given the go-ahead. As of April 6 her photos still were not in the gallery of finalists on the Miss Universe Canada web page.