As Pride Month draws to a close, Kataluna Enriquez has an extra-special reason to celebrate.
Miss Nevada competition officials on Monday touted the historic victory with a series of social media posts showing a newly crowned Enriquez, who is Filipina American, taking the stage at Las Vegas’ South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa.
That same day, Enriquez expressed similar sentiments on Instagram. The fact that her victory coincided with LGBTQ Pride Month in June was not lost on her.
“My community, you are always in my heart,” she wrote. “My win is our win. We just made history. Happy pride.”
Enriquez, who works in health care, also shared a photo of herself in a sequined rainbow gown she’d designed as part of her clothing line, KatalunaKouture.
That image featured her sash from March’s Miss Silver State USA pageant, considered the biggest preliminary competition for Miss Nevada.
In recent interviews, Enriquez ― who has made transgender awareness part of her platform ― has been outspoken about the challenges she’s faced as a trans woman of color in the beauty pageant circuit and otherwise.
“I didn’t have the easiest journey in life,” she told local Fox affiliate KVVU. “It was a struggle for a moment. I struggled with physical and sexual abuse. I struggled with mental health.”
“I didn’t have much growing up,” she continued. “I didn’t have support. But I’m still able to thrive, and I’m still able to survive and become a trailblazer for many.”
In a separate interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal published Monday, Enriquez said she first competed in a transgender-focused pageant in 2016 after years of working as a model. It wasn’t until last year, however, that she joined a pageant in which she competed against cisgender women.
“I wanted to share my story and present that I was more than just a body,” she explained. “With pageantry, people think it is only about beauty. But it’s how you present yourself, what you advocate for, what you’ve done and the goals you have.”
The news drew praise from LGBTQ advocacy groups.
Anthony Allen Ramos, who is GLAAD’s head of talent, told HuffPost in a statement that Enriquez’s milestone “sends a powerful, but simple message to the world: trans women are women.”
Now Enriquez begins the long process of preparing for the Miss USA pageant, which will be held Nov. 29 in Oklahoma.