Photo Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP
Jenna Talackova is no ordinary beauty queen. The Miss Universe Canada contestant made headlines when she was temporarily disqualified from the competition, after pageant officials learned that she was not a "naturally born female." On Friday night, Talackova, 23, gave her first TV interview to Barbara Walters, and showed home videos of herself when she was a toddler... named Walter. Watch the segment below!
Sitting down with her mother on 20/20, Talackova explained that she knew she was different from the time she was 4 years old.
"I thought that I was in the wrong body," she told Walters. "I was really confused because they kept saying I was a boy, and I just never felt that way. I was always attracted to anything feminine."
By the time she was in eighth grade, Talackova was openly living as a girl, even using the girls' bathroom at school. (She says she didn't experience any discrimination or physical violence, though she was regularly called "it" and "tranny" by the other kids.) At 14, she began taking estrogen to stop herself from going through male puberty, and together with her mother, Talackova chose a new name.
"Jenna. That sounds so you!" her mother remembers thinking.
Since having sex reassignment surgery at age 19, Jenna says she looks just like a woman in every way. She's also legally identified as a woman in Canada, even on her birth certificate. And she has never hidden the fact that she wasn't born a woman, even entering a transgender beauty pageant in Thailand. So when Donald Trump disqualified her from the Miss Universe pageant, she took action, hiring famous attorney Gloria Allred to petition against the discriminatory law. The gambit worked: Trump changed the pageant rules to say that anyone who is legally identified as female can compete in his pageants.
While Talackova is the first transgendered woman to openly compete, it's entirely possible -- even probable -- that transgendered women have taken part in beauty pageants before. And though Talackova admits to surgical enhancements like breast implants, isn't it possible that she's had less plastic surgery than some female-born beauty pageant contestants? Her story raises some interesting questions about what it means to be a woman, and how we judge appearances. And now, thanks to her bravery, the world of pageants is open to a whole new kind of beauty.
The Miss Universe Canada pageant takes place on May 19.