Olivia Culpo: Miss Transgender-Tolerant

olivia culpo(Olivia Culpo photo by Valeria Macon / Miss Universe Organization)

Olivia Culpo is stunningly beautiful. She has played cello at both Boston Symphony Hall and Carnegie Hall. She cites Audrey Hepburn as an inspiration. She is a deans-list student at Boston University.

But what the newly crowned Miss USA should (and mostly likely will) be remembered for is her response to this tricky question:

“Would you feel it would be fair that a transgender woman wins the Miss USA title over a natural-born woman?” asked celeb judge Rob Kardashian, who noted that the question came from a pageant follower on Twitter.

Without hesitation, the 20-year-old Rhode Islander replied:

“I do think that that would be fair, but I can understand that people would be a little apprehensive to take that road because there is a tradition of natural-born women. But today where there are so many surgeries and so many people out there who have a need to change for a happier life, I do accept that because I believe it’s a free country.”

The audience applauded this answer to what was, perhaps, the most difficult and controversy-laden question of the night. No “world peace” or “end to hunger” or “Puppies for everyone!” response would have sufficed here.

Hopefully, Culpo’s immediate reaction is indicative of a more positive future for transgender pageant contestants. Just last month, 23-year-old Jenna Talackova, who had sexual reassignment surgery four years ago, made it to the penultimate round of Miss Universe Canada. Only, she was initially denied entry into the competition and was told she would be disqualified because she was born male. This sparked outrage from Talackova and her lawyer, and, after much discussion with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the Miss Universe Organization overturned its ban on transgender contestants.

Even Donald Trump, owner of the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants — and who came under scrutiny after the Talackova incident — told Fox News that Culpo gave a great answer to a tough question.

Whether or not her admirable response will set an example for other contestants (or any intolerant person for that matter) remains to be seen. But for now, we can bask in this moment, when a pageant contestant proved that beauty and brains can mix.

Hats off to you, Miss Culpo — er, Miss USA — for your courageous and intelligent response.