The Miss International Queen crown returned to Thailand as a Bangkok communications student won Pattaya’s annual transvestite beauty pageant which, this year, served as a vehicle not only to raise hopes of equality for the transgendered, but relief for the kingdom’s flood-ravaged citizens.
Sirapassorn Athayakorn, 21, won $10,000 and a raft of other prizes in triumphing over 22 contestants from 18 countries at the Nov. 4 pageant at the Tiffany Theater. Standing in stark contrast to fellow contestants from less-tolerant countries, the Ramkamhaeng University communications arts major said his family was very supportive of his goal of becoming a woman, giving up their fight against femininity when Sirapassorn was only six years old.
Things couldn’t have been more different for second place finisher “Sahhara” of Nigeria, whose flowing gown hid masses of scars from childhood beatings borne of persecution in his home country.
“I didn't join this competition to get confirmation that I'm accepted in society,” said Sahhara, who will take $2,000 and other prizes back to his current home in the United Kingdom. “I joined because I want to have fun and also to make a statement to Nigeria that, as a transwoman, you can do this, you can be here.”
Sahhara wasn’t unique in having endured hardship in pursuit of changing genders. A Filipino contestant who finished third, who goes simply by the moniker “Margaret,” was actually born in Lebanon, but was given up by his birth parents and shunned by his adoptive father in the Philippines.
"Everything seemed to blow up in front of me," Margaret recalled for the media. “My parents promised they'd come back and get me. I'm waiting for them. I hope nobody forgets me."
For this year’s contestants, however, shared personal pain paled in the face of the communal struggles of Thais enduring the worst flooding in six decades. The contestants visited evacuees from central Thailand and Bangkok and the pageant officials devoted themselves to raising money for disaster relief.
Ten boats owned by previous Miss International Queen contestants, including 2001 winner Trichda Phetcharat and 2007 queen Thanyarat Jitprapajin, were auctioned off for 270,000 baht. The funds were donated to the Chai Pattana Foundation, a royal charity devoted to development projects throughout the kingdom.
“That will be with me forever,” Sahhara told the media of his visit to the evacuee shelter.
Others taking home memories and prizes from the globally televised ladyboy pageant are Angel GaGa of China, who won “Most Talented” with a unique performance that brought laughter to the judges and audience, and Karin Fujikawa of Japan who won the Miss Photogenic prize. The Eternal Beauty prize when to American Mokha Montres and the Best National Dress award was won by “Yasmin Dream” of Brazil.