- Human rights
Thailand’s annual Miss Tiffany’s Universe (มิสทิฟฟานี่ ยูนิเวิร์ส 2554) beauty pageant is internationally recognized as one of the largest and most colorful transgender beauty pageants in the world, with about 10 million domestic viewers tuning in to watch the live television broadcast of the most beautiful ladyboys (Katoeys) in Thailand compete for the exalted title of Miss Tiffany’s Universe 2011 (มิสทิฟฟานี่ ยูนิเวิร์ส 2554).
First held in 1997 by Tiffany’s Show Pattaya, the first and largest transsexuals/ transvestite cabaret show in Asia, the aim of the Miss Tiffany’s Universe (มิสทิฟฟานี่ ยูนิเวิร์ส 2554) beauty pageant from the beginning has been to promote Pattaya Tourism, to create human rights awareness, to promote a positive transvestite/ transsexual image internationally, and to raise money for the Royally Sponsored Aids Foundation, through the Thai Red Cross.
It is estimated that Thailand’s transgender (also termed ladyboy, Katoey, kathoey, shemale, the “third sex”) population could be as high as 500,000, with one old Bangkok adage being that there is a ladyboy for every bus shelter in the nations capital.
Since it opened 34 years ago the 1,000-seat capacity Tiffany’s Show Pattaya has worked to not only entertain, but to help dispel Thai cultural perceptions of ladyboys as being people with a psychological impairment.
Being 95 per cent Buddhist, a religion that preaches tolerance for those that hold different views, or who act or behave differently as one of its core principals, a common Thai belief is that ladyboys and transgenders in Thailand society are the reincarnated souls of former “playboys”, whose punishment for breaking the hearts of many women in a previous life is to return as one of Thailand’s internationally known “third sex” ladyboys.
While long-term Thailand expatriates might like to proclaim from their bar stools or in online forums that they can “easily” distinguish between a Thailand ladyboy and a genuine Thai woman by the size of their hands, the size of their feet, the presence of an Adam’s apple, or even their elbows, the truth is that differentiating between a Thailand ladyboy and real female short of a physical examination can be impossible – as many tourists find out each year.
Another old Bangkok adage, that “the best looking girls in Bangkok used to be boys” has grown in popularity since the first male-to-female sex reassignment surgery was conducted in Thailand in 1972, with the country now believed to perform more sex reassignment surgeries – primary male-to-female – than any other country in the world.
While transgenders in nearby Singapore can legally change their gender on their national identity cards, no such option is available for Thailand’s ladyboys, who up until recently were marked as being unfit for national military service on the grounds they had a “mental illness” – causing the ladyboys difficulties in finding employment opportunities.
After many years of lobbying the practice is set to change in 2012, with ladyboys in Thailand who are called-up for the annual draft to be excused from military service on medical grounds due to “gender identity disorder”.
Each year the Miss Tiffany Universe pageant attracts an increasingly large domestic and international audience, successfully achieving one of its primary goals of promoting a positive transvestite/ transsexual image internationally, while also raising an increasing amount of money for HIV/Aids education programs in Thailand.
The initial elimination round on April 18, saw 58 Miss Tiffany’s Universe 2011 ladyboy hopefuls take to the stage before a panel of judges, with the field whittled down to the final 30 contestants who will take part in the reminder of the pageant.
Commencing May 1 the 30 Thailand ladyboys remaining in the Miss Tiffany’s Universe 2011 pageant will take part in a grueling program of events in Bangkok and Pattaya, with most days commencing at 7am and running through until after 10pm.
By far the two most highly anticipated events are the Miss Unlimited Sexy Star swimsuit competition to be held at Central Festival Pattaya Beach Mall on May 4, and the gala pageant finale at Tiffany’s Show Pattaya on Moo 9, Pattaya Second Road, on May 6.
Comprising a full night of entertainment, the Miss Tiffany’s Universe gala ceremony is held with all of the vitality and glamor befitting an internationally recognized beauty pageant, with musical performances, entertainment and presentations by all 30 of the ladyboy contestants.
In addition to the grand prize and crown of Miss Tiffany’s Universe, competitors will also be competing for the title of Miss Congeniality, Miss Most Stylish Cocktail Dress, Miss Beautiful Complexion, Miss Nuris Skin, Miss Best Costumes, and Miss Photogenic.
The prize pool for contestants in the 2011 Miss Tiffany’s Universe 2011 competition exceeds Bt1 million (about $US33,400), including a new Honda Jazz car and use of an apartment for one year at Woodland Hotel & Resort in Pattaya for the winner.
Expatriates or tourists in Thailand in early May can join in the excitement, color and pizazz of Miss Tiffany’s Universe 2011 at various locations around Bangkok and Pattaya (I’ll post a detailed schedule in the next few days), including the free swimwear pageant on May 4.
Tickets for the gala awards night ceremony where 30 of Thailand’s most beautiful ladyboys will face the judges decision are available from Thai Ticket Major, with VIP seats costing Bt2,500 ($83.50), or Bt1,500 ($50.12) for Mezzanine seating.
For more information on the Miss Tiffany’s Universe 2011 competition where the most beautiful ladyboys in Thailand will display their beautiful assets, call the organizers on +66.(0)38. 421.700 – 5.
© John Le Fevre, 2011
Thailand’s most beautiful ladyboys line up for Miss Tiffany’s Universe 2011 (มิสทิฟฟานี่ ยูนิเวิร์ส 2554),
He is currently deputy editor and Thailand / GMS region editor for The Establishment Post
Opinions and views expressed on this site are those of the author’s only. Read more at About me