SINGAPORE - Ecstatic. That was Angel Aurora Jalleh-Hosey's first reaction when she found out she had won our first Beauty Queen Of The Year award over a "real woman" and a "real man".
When we first spoke to her about her nomination, she told us she was curious to find out if Singaporeans were too conservative to vote for a transgender beauty queen over Miss Singapore World Karisa Sukamto and Manhunt Singapore 2012 Jason Chee.
The 38-year-old Miss Exotica 2012 was shocked to find out that not only had she taken the title, she had beaten her competition with 573 votes, to Sukamto's 111 votes and Chee's 22 votes.
"I really thought Jason would win," she said. "I thought he would appeal to both guys and girls because he's a hunk."
Jalleh-Hosey's simple strategy was to post the link to the voting site on her Facebook page and get her friends to share it with others.
"I was really touched because even the other Miss Exotica contestants got their friends to vote for me, even though they didn't win," she said.
Perhaps they admired her dedication during the pageant - Jalleh-Hosey spent more than $1,000 of her own money for her costumes and made sure she got exactly what she specified.
One of her dresses, for example, was based on an outfit worn by Miss Ukraine 2011 Olesya Stefanko, but she searched high and low for a Hermes orange colour for it.
"Honestly, besides my sister, the person I really thank for my (Miss Exotica) win is myself," she said. "It was all my own hard work and determination."
She goes into 2013 with the possibility of representing Singapore at an international transgender pageant, though details are yet to be confirmed.
Jalleh-Hosey is also looking forward to being involved in the Miss Singapore Universe pageant next year, should there be any transgender contestants who are serious about participating.
She said she has friends who are eager to participate in the Miss Singapore Universe pageant next year, though, as a beauty pageant veteran, she has told them that they are "not ready yet".
"I told them not to rush. I was very frank. They don't have the poise yet. They can always join in the future," she said.
Now that she has crossed one hurdle - getting Singaporeans to recognise her as a bona fide beauty queen - Jalleh-Hosey says there are more.
For one, she feels that there are issues within the transgender community that she hopes she can help to resolve.
"We need to learn to respect each other, before society can respect us," she said.
"There's a lot of squabbling about seniority, who's gone through a sex change, who hasn't gone through a sex change... but what's important is who we are inside," she said.
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