Transsexual contestant Jenna Talackova can compete in a preliminary Miss Universe pageant in her native Canada "if she wants to," owner Donald Trump has clarified, following her disqualification and suggested reinstatement, adding that he "couldn't care less" whether or not she decides to return.
The 23-year-old Vancouver native was axed as a Miss Universe Canada finalist last month, a move that spurred an online backlash and accusations of discrimination. Organizers said she was "dishonest" by failing to disclose she had been born male. On Monday, they said she could compete after all if she "meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada and the standards established by other international competitions."
Talackova and her lawyer, famed celebrity case attorney Gloria Allred and the two spoke about the issue at a press conference on Tuesday, April 3. Talackova, who underwent gender reassignment surgery at age 19, called on Trump to eliminate a Miss Universe rule that states that a contestant must be "a naturally-born female." Allred said Talackova's Canadian birth certificate, passport and driver's license identify her as a woman.
Hours later, Trump phoned into "TMZ Live" and said: "We said she would be able to compete, based on the laws of Canada and the laws of the United States. So we go by the law and based on the laws, she's able to compete if she wants to. She can take her shot. She can maybe win and maybe she won't win."
"There will be no apology whatsoever," he added. "And frankly, if she competes, that's wonderful, and if she doesn't want to compete because maybe she thinks she can't win, that's fine also. I couldn't care less."
Brenda Mendoza, a spokeswoman for the Miss Universe Organization, told The Globe and Mail that pageant officials have been trying to reach out to Ms. Talackova and that she can take part in the competition if she is considered a female in Canada.
When asked if the natural-born female rule would be eliminated, Mendoza told the outlet: "Obviously this is a big policy issue, and something that we're evaluating and taking seriously. It's very complicated because of the fact that we have 100 franchises."
Talackova competed in the unaffiliated Miss International Queen contest, a beauty pageant for transvestite and transgender contestants, in 2010 in Thailand. She made it to the finals but lost to Mini Han from South Korea.
Talackova told the local newspaper The Pattaya Mail in a video interview that she "always knew" she was a female at age 4 and that she had started taking hormones to transform into a woman physically when she was 14, five years before she went under the knife.Talackova said she was "thrilled" when she was selected as a Miss Universe Canada finalist and had "always dreamed of being in the Miss Universe competition and having the opportunity to represent my country." The Canada pageant takes place in Toronto on May 19.
Trump bought the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants in 1996. He told TMZ Live that the controversy involving Talackova has brought him a "tremendous amount of publicity."
"The Miss [Universe] Canada pageant has become very sought," he said. "I tell you, the tickets are going through the roof."