Meet the 6 Miss Universe 2023 contestants who are making the pageant more inclusive

Meet the 6 Miss Universe 2023 contestants who are making the pageant more inclusive
  • The 2023 Miss Universe pageant takes place in El Salvador on November 18. 

  • This year's contestants include two transgender women and two mothers. 

  • Erica Robin is the first Miss Pakistan, while Guatemala's Michelle Cohn is the first mom to compete.

The Miss Universe 2023 pageant has arrived.

The global competition will occur on Saturday in San Salvador, El Salvador, where 84 women will compete for the coveted title. R'Bonney Gabriel, who snagged the title of Miss Universe 2022 and became embroiled in a rigging scandal, will crown the winner. This year's competition is set to be the most inclusive Miss Universe pageant yet, with mothers, married women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and a plus-size model among the contestants.

Organizers announced that mothers and married women could enter the competition in August 2022, while transgender contestants could compete in April 2012. In recent years, there have also been calls for Miss Universe to become more body-inclusive.

These contestants are fighting to make the Miss Universe pageant more inclusive. Take a look.

Miss Guatemala Michelle Cohn is the first mother to compete in the Miss Universe pageant.

A headshot of Miss Guatemala 2023 Michelle Cohn.
Michelle Cohn, Miss Guatemala 2023.Courtesy of Miss Universe

Cohn, 28, is a mother of two, a model, a brand founder, and an entrepreneur. According to Cohn's bio via the pageant's Instagram page, she launched a swimwear brand in 2016 and employs deaf women to promote equal opportunities.

"I'm most proud of being the first mother elected to represent my country at Miss Universe, breaking stereotypes and promoting women's empowerment," her bio reads.

Miss Colombia, Camila Avella, is married with one child, making her the first married contestant.

Miss Colombia 2023 Camila Avella
Camila Avella, Miss Colombia 2023.Courtesy of Miss Universe

Avella, 28, told HOLA this month that she competed for the Miss Colombia title in 2018 but didn't make the cut. After the Miss Universe organizers announced that mothers and married women could compete, she decided to try again as a wife and mother.

Her bio says Avella is a journalist and model who works to uplift young mothers by providing them with resources, including financial management and mental-health training.

Rikkie Valerie Kollé is the first transgender Miss Netherlands.

A headshot of Miss Netherlands 2023 Rikkie Kollé.
Rikkie Valerie Kollé, Miss Netherlands 2023.Courtesy of Miss Universe

In July 2023, Kollé, 22, beat nine other finalists to become Miss Netherlands. NOS, a broadcasting organization based in the Netherlands, reported that Kollé is the second transgender person to compete in the Miss Universe pageant, following Angela Ponce, who represented Spain in 2018.

In a video shared for the Voices for Change campaign, Kollé — who competed on "Holland's Next Top Model" — said she advocates for equality and is against bullying, which she said she faced due to her gender identity.

Marina Machete became the first transgender Miss Portugal.

A headshot of Miss Portugal 2023 Marina Machete.
Marina Machete, Miss Portugal 2023.Courtesy of Miss Universe

Machete, 28, is a flight attendant who won the 2023 Miss Portugal competition in October, making her the first transgender contestant in her country to do so.

Her bio says she is passionate about equity and inclusion.

"I'm most proud of the challenges I overcame with courage and strength. Leading me to develop humanity and kindness towards others in my life," her bio reads.

Miss Nepal, Jane Dipika Garrett, made history as the first body-inclusive contestant.

A headshot of Miss Nepal 2023 Jane Dipika Garrett.
Jane Dipika Garrett, Miss Nepal 2023.Courtesy of Miss Universe

Some outlets have hailed Garrett, 22, as Miss Universe's first plus-size contestant — something pageant contestants said is long overdue. She advocates for mental and hormonal health after experiencing depression caused by PCOS, according to her Voices of Change campaign video.

"I am a determined, resilient, and genuine woman who embraces her true essence and nature without fear," her bio reads. "My life experiences have molded me into the strong, bold, and courageous woman I am today."

In a November Instagram post, she wrote: "It's time to celebrate the different changes in women's bodies and embrace all our shapes and sizes."

Erica Robin is the first Miss Pakistan to compete in the pageant.

A headshot of Miss Pakistan 2023 Erica Robin.
Erica Robin, Miss Pakistan 2023.Courtesy of Miss Universe

Robin, 24, will make history on Saturday as the first-ever Miss Pakistan. Per her bio, Robin is a model fighting gender bias and inequality in the workplace.

"I'm most proud of standing up for what I believe in my life. Recently, right after I was announced as the new titleholder for Miss Universe Pakistan, I received some backlash from different sectors of the community, but I would like to stand up for what I believe in," her bio reads.

"Despite these criticisms, I was ready to face any challenges ahead of me while maintaining my values as a young modern Pakistani woman, representing our rich culture and heritage, and showing the world that Pakistan can celebrate the success of women," her bio added.

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