Camille Anderson was in Thailand in early March preparing to compete in the Miss International Queen pageant. The Miss International Queen pageant has been held annually since 2004 in Pattaya City in Thailand. The pageant is open to female contestants between the ages of 18 and 36 who were born male. The contestants must represent either the country of their birth or the one listed on their passport. Gender-reassignment surgery is not required, and most contestants haven’t done it. Previous winners of the Miss International Queen pageant have gone on to movie, TV and singing careers in Asia and elsewhere. The only past American winner, Mimi Marks, has been a regular at Baton, a drag club in Chicago.
Its been a long road for Anderson to achieve her goal of competing in the pageant. Anderson was born as Mark Cordeta in Tacloban City, Philippines. Mark preferred playing with girls and by the age of 9 he was sneaking into his mom’s closets to try on her heels or bras. “I always felt like I was different,” Anderson told CNN. Mark’s devoutly Catholic family knew he was different, too. They thought he was gay, but nobody really talked about it. “It was like a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ thing. I was always afraid of what my family would say, and what other people would say.” Anderson said.
Not until he immigrated to the United States at age 21 did Mark begin to show more of a feminine side in public. Two years later, he began transitioning to becoming a woman. Mark then became Kim, complete with a legal name change.
The transition created some distance at first between Kim and her parents. She found herself acting differently around them than with her friends. “I felt like I was living two lives,” said Anderson, who asked to be identified by her pageant name. Eventually they adjusted and became supportive.
In 2013, Anderson married her boyfriend, Marco Hudec, in a glamorous outdoor ceremony. He was the one who encouraged Anderson to compete in beauty pageants. “I never had the confidence,” said Anderson, who now lives in Torrance, California, and works as a registered nurse. “He believes in me more than I believe in myself.”
Anderson proved proved to be a natural on the pageant circuit. Within two years she had won three local and national pageants: Miss Los Angeles Pride 2014, Queen USA 2014 and Queen of the Universe 2015. Anderson met Caitlyn Jenner. And her previous crowns qualified her for the big one. It was time to go to Thailand for Miss International Queen.
Pageants for transgender women are not that different from other beauty pageants. There’s an evening gown and a swimsuit competition. The finalists are asked about their hopes and dreams by a panel of judges. Winners wear a tiara and carry flowers. There is one key difference, though. Most traditional beauty queens haven’t faced discrimination, or worse. “Many of the contestants have had trouble being accepted by their families. So we’re trying to bring up their self-esteem,” said Alisa Phanthusak, chair of Miss International Queen’s pageant committee. “It’s not just beauty we are looking for. It’s confidence.”
For Anderson, the past week in Thailand has been a blur of costume fittings, media interviews and other appearances. She likes the message she’s sending to young LGBTQ people who may be watching. “…if you become a beauty queen you become a role model. There’s a lot of visibility for our (transgender) community these days. But there also are a lot of people who will hate, so you have to stay strong. Our voices are being heard now more than before. It’s just going to take a while.”Tags: beauty pageant, Camille Anderson, LGBT, LGBTQ, Miss International Queen, pageant, Thailand, Transgender