Loud pop music. A clap sounds and the camera clicks begin. Sofía Salomón poses with ease in a bathing suit, exhibiting the same confidence with which she aspires to be the first transgender woman to compete in Miss Venezuela.
This event is more than just a beauty pageant in a country with seven Miss Universe “queens” (1979, 1981, 1986, 1996, 2008, 2009 and 2013) and six Miss World (1955, 1981, 1984, 1991, 1995 and 2011) and, despite a decade of economic crisis that adds up to a decade, continues to paralyze millions in front of the TV.
“As in other countries, soccer is very important, here it is very important to be a beauty queen (…), it is a feeling and for me it is very beautiful,” says Sofía in an interview with AFP, whose application caused a stir. on social networks and in the press months after the contest, scheduled for December.
This 25-year-old model hopes that this “echo” will give trans people “visibility” in a very conservative society.
“I was in a restaurant here in Caracas and a person told me: ‘Hey! Are you Sofía Salomón, the transgender girl who is going to participate in Miss Venezuela?’ That is already echoing (…) and from that’s what it’s all about: giving visibility to what nobody talks about,” he comments after the photo session.
“All eyes are on what happens at Miss Venezuela,” he says. “For me to be there would be making history.”
Last year she competed in Thailand in Miss International Queen, the largest beauty pageant for trans women, and was among the top six.
“There were many messages on social networks” from people who wanted him to “participate in another contest,” he narrates. “Now that Miss Universe and Miss World accept transgender girls, this possibility opens for me to participate in Miss Venezuela.”
Ángela Ponce broke barriers when in 2018, as Miss Spain, she was the first trans woman in Miss Universe.
“Message for society”
Sofía Salomón goes into a trance when a slap from her image consultant, Jordys Charles, tells her that the photographer will start clicking. Her face reflects concentration.
The countdown, meanwhile, advances: the applications for Miss Venezuela will close on May 31 and each applicant will be evaluated later to select the misses.
“Since I can remember, I have had the support of my father, my mother and my entire family (…). I had an excellent childhood full of respect, love, and thus everything becomes easier, because you you can show society who you really are,” she says.
Born in Ciudad Bolívar, in the south of the country, she has modeled in Spain and Mexico and has a young clothing brand: ‘Diva by me, Sofía Salomón’.
Not everyone is that lucky.
“Being trans in Venezuela is hell for many people,” laments Richelle Briceño, a trans woman and activist.
“The opportunity that Miss Sofía Salomón has is a message for society (…). Despite the fact that Venezuela is a highly conservative country (…), trans people here survive and prevail in a good sense of the word, because we occupy spaces”, applauds this lawyer.
“It has always been like this”
Argentina was a pioneer in Latin America by accepting the gender change in 2012, a trail followed by Uruguay, Colombia, Ecuador or Peru. Venezuela does not have legislation in this regard, only allowing itself to change its name and even in this process, obstacles by officials are common, denounce LGBTI + organizations.
“Everyone has advanced in the recognition of gender identity and Venezuela has remained stagnant in obscurantism,” Briceño emphasizes.
Sofía Salomón, for example, has dual Venezuelan-Colombian nationality. Her documents in Colombia, unlike what happens in Venezuela, recognize her gender identity.
LGBTI+ groups have also unsuccessfully demanded legislation on equal marriage or same-sex families.
In this context, she hopes to have a positive influence: “Whatever happens, I will continue to be a successful woman. It has always been like that.”