She is The One: Thailand’s first transgender teen pageant (PHOTO ESSAY)

For the first time ever, thirty Thai transgender teen girls took part in a beauty pageant “The One: Miss Teen Beauty Queen 2015” at Aksra Theatre on Tuesday night, and a southern Thai, Thawanrat “Billy” Wanjaro, was crowned The One.

While you have to be over 18 years-old to compete in the famous “Miss Tiffany’s Universe,” The One gives transgender teens aged between 15 to 18 an early chance to shine on stage.

A hundred contestants signed up for the contest in early October. Then, the final 30 contestants were selected and sent away to a camp for personality development and make-up workshops and to take part in a Buddhist retreat at Sathira Dhammasathan.

On Tuesday night, the finalists finally got the chance to take the stage in front of 300 audience members including family, friends and fans. Some of the contestants had to get their parents’ permission to participate in the pageant due to their age and a large number had the Thai middle school’s short bob, but it didn’t take long to transform them into their true selves.

The participants wore an outfit that best represented their hometowns. Internet superstar Ma Daew, who is known internationally for her talent in fashion, wore an Isaan-style silk outfit to represent Khon Kaen. All of the contestants had to introduce themselves to the audience and the judges before returning backstage to change into a casual sport outfit for the next round.

Internet celebrity Apichet “Ma Daew” Atirattana looks as fierce​ as ever

Between each round, cabaret acts and video footage on a big screen from the contestants’ time at the camp kept the audience entertained. The six teachers from the camp also appeared on stage to share their experiences of being transwomen living in Thailand.

“We want them to know that despite being a transwoman, we all have the ability to work in a professional field outside of society’s expectation,” said Ajarn Kate, who is a veterinarian and fashion designer.

The girls showed up in beautiful evening gowns on the third round, and as is the norm with all beauty pageants, the contestants were then asked a number of tricky questions.

“If I were prime minister, the first problem I’d like to fix is the issue of inequality. While Thailand seems to be a free country, we really have a serious human rights issue here,” said Thawanrat “Billy” Wanjaro, the winner of the pageant. Her answer was met with rapturous applause.

Kwanlada “Rock” Roongrodampa finished in second place and also won a special award for being the contestant with the brightest skin while third place went to Supadraft “Draft” Aeutaya.

Although internet superstar Ma Daew didn’t even make the top 10, she received a special award for being the friendliest contestant, which was voted for by her fellow participants.

“I’m so proud of all the contestants. I’m glad to be a part of this contest and to open a new opportunity for them [transwomen] to show their talents. I want The One to be a new door that leads them to finding themselves, their potentials and a good life in our society,” said Thanatip Ketchart Thallon, the founder of The One.

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