Miss Spain Angela Ponce did not make it to the final round of 20 at the 2018 Miss Universe pageant in Bangkok, Thailand.
Although there was a separate “Wild Card” round of 5 to round out the final group of women to 25, Ponce went home empty-handed and uncrowned as Miss Universe. Many people, however, still see her appearance in the pageant as a victory in and of itself.
Ponce made history at the show on Sunday because she was the first transgender woman to ever compete in the pageant. in July, Ponce spoke to Associated Press about her platform and said she wanted to use her place in the worldwide show to shine light on the suicide rate among trans teenagers.
She told AP, “If my going through all this contributes to the world moving a little step forward, then that’s a personal crown that will always accompany me.”
After the top 25 finalists gave their opening statements, co-host Ashley Graham narrated a video about the 27-year-old beauty queen. “Angela Ponce is everything you’d expect from the reigning Miss Universe,” Graham said. “She’s smart. Driven. Beautiful. But her path has been anything but ordinary. And nothing short of extraordinary.”
After the video montage in honor of Ponce, she took a solo walk down the runway as the audience erupted in loud cheers.
In November, Miss Spain spoke to TIME about the pageant and her road to getting to Miss Universe. Ponce revealed that she competed in Miss World in 2015, but she “found out on the day of the competition that their rules didn’t allow a transgender woman to win.” The news “crushed” her. “I had to go on and perform, and it felt horrible. But after I got to the Miss Universe final, Miss World changed their rules too. I changed the rules.”
Ponce also discussed what a Miss Universe victory would symbolize for President Donald Trump, who used to own the Miss Universe organization and has taken measures to bar transgender people from serving in the U.S. military. “It would be a win for human rights,” she told the magazine. “Trans women have been persecuted and erased for so long. If they give me the crown, it would show trans women are just as much women as cis women.”
She concluded, “I’d never try to change anyone’s culture or way of life. But by competing I’ll make trans people more visible for everyone, which is a big step. I’m not nervous. I’m excited.”