Last April, following international fallout when pageant officials disqualified 23-year-old Miss Canada Jenna Talackova after learning she was a transgender woman, Donald Trump and his Miss Universe Organization announced a significant rule change to allow trans women to compete for any of their pageant titles.
Because of that rule change, 26-year-old Kylan Arianna Wenzel of Century City left her job as a shift manager at Jamba Juice, moved her sex reassignment surgery up six months and decided to pursue her life-long dream of confidently entering the Miss California beauty pageant.
“The first time I watched a beauty pageant was when I was 11, in 1997, when Miss USA won Miss Universe. And ever since then, it’s kind of been implanted in my brain,” Wenzel told Frontiers during a Jan. 3 phone interview. “I wasn’t sure how it would happen for me, but it was something I put out there.
“You have to put it out to the universe—what you want to do—and you have to follow up on it,” Wenzel continued. “So, let’s say for transgender individuals, even if you haven’t had your sex change and you’re not sure, you have to act like you are Miss Universe or you are the woman you see yourself being. And you do that in everyday life. So I just worked really hard. I saved for surgery. I started getting procedures early like laser hair removal—things like that. It really is about believing in yourself. But you also need people to believe in you, because you can’t really get that far, sometimes, when you don’t have that kind of support.”
Wenzel came to the conclusion that “nothing is impossible,” despite an extremely difficult childhood. Half-Korean and half-German, she was considered developmentally slow. “I always knew I was female, but it was really hard to register those feelings because of my development growing up,” Wenzel said. “And I also come from a very abusive background. But no matter how much I got beaten or what I was going through, there was kind of a fire in me that just said, I will! and I can, no matter what they say!”
Wenzel survived by doing research. She studied what happened to people from abusive backgrounds and decided not to do drugs, drink or smoke. She also consumed self-help books and Oprah to discover her purpose in life. “But the one thing I’ve always wanted most of all is wisdom,” she said, “discovering that you don’t actually have to experience something to learn about it.”
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