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Trans Beauty Kylan Wenzel Competes in Miss California Pageant This Weekend

Trans Beauty Kylan Wenzel Competes in Miss California Pageant This Weekend

by Karen Ocamb on January 10, 2013

(Trans Miss California USA beauty pageant contestant Kylan Wenzel. Photo courtesy Miss CA USA)

(Editor's note: This piece is in the current issue of Frontiers magazine. The extended interview with contestant Kylan Wenzel follows the piece below - Karen O.)

April, following international fallout when pageant officials disqualified 23-year-old Miss Canada Jenna Talackova after learning she was a transgender woman, Donald Trump and his Miss Universe Organization announced a significant rule change to allow trans women to compete for any of their pageant titles.

Because of that rule change, 26-year-old Kylan Arianna Wenzel of Century City left her job as a shift manager at Jamba Juice, moved her sex reassignment surgery up six months and decided to pursue her life-long dream of confidently entering the Miss California beauty pageant.

“The first time I watched a beauty pageant was when I was 11, in 1997, when Miss USA won Miss Universe. And ever since then, it’s kind of been implanted in my brain,” Wenzel told Frontiers during a Jan. 3 phone interview. “I wasn’t sure how it would happen for me, but it was something I put out there.

“You have to put it out to the universe—what you want to do—and you have to follow up on it,” Wenzel continued. “So, let’s say for transgender individuals, even if you haven’t had your sex change and you’re not sure, you have to act like you are Miss Universe or you are the woman you see yourself being. And you do that in everyday life. So I just worked really hard. I saved for surgery. I started getting procedures early like laser hair removal—things like that. It really is about believing in yourself. But you also need people to believe in you, because you can’t really get that far, sometimes, when you don’t have that kind of support.”

Wenzel came to the conclusion that “nothing is impossible,” despite an extremely difficult childhood. Half-Korean and half-German, she was considered developmentally slow. “I always knew I was female, but it was really hard to register those feelings because of my development growing up,” Wenzel said. “And I also come from a very abusive background. But no matter how much I got beaten or what I was going through, there was kind of a fire in me that just said, I will! and I can, no matter what they say!

Wenzel survived by doing research. She studied what happened to people from abusive backgrounds and decided not to do drugs, drink or smoke. She also consumed self-help books and Oprah to discover her purpose in life. “But the one thing I’ve always wanted most of all is wisdom,” she said, “discovering that you don’t actually have to experience something to learn about it.”

“My parents were physically abusive growing up, and I was also sexually abused,” she said. “But part of it now is really understanding and knowing your parents as human beings and why they were the way they were. So as an adult now, I don’t have any anger or resentment towards them, because I understand that they had a very tough life and that’s the only way they knew how to deal with it. I just find a way to communicate with people and connect with them. I think of their background and ask, why do they react that way? And that’s how I go through my everyday life with every person that I meet.”

Wenzel is also philosophical about beauty. “We all know that beauty is just skin deep.  Beauty is not something that is earned—it’s something you’re born with or the doctor helps you with, whatever. Beauty is what you do with it. [The judges of Miss Universe or Miss USA] always pick someone who embodies a certain kind of role model. It’s the girl that understands that the platform represents something bigger than themselves—that when they win this, it’s not about them but what they can do for others. If you want to be successful in life, it’s not about what you can win or how much money you make. It really, really starts by serving others. When you can develop a connection and you can serve other people, people will follow you, because, first, you’re inspirational, and two, you become influential. What the pageant does—it motivates every individual girl to really become the best of themselves. They’re trying to find the highest expression of themselves.”

Wenzel is among 229 contestants participating in the preliminary Miss California show on Saturday, Jan. 12, at the Pasadena Convention Center. The 20 contestants left will then go on to compete in the final show on Sunday, Jan. 13, at 4 p.m.

Miss California pageant producer Keith Lewis finds Wenzel inspiring. “I so admire what Kylan’s doing, because she’s fought so hard to be here,” Lewis told Frontiers. “I think she will be successful in whatever she decides to do in her life. When we talked about her participating, she said, I really just want the other girls to accept me. And I think they not only accept her but will celebrate her because she’s loving and she’s open and courageous and she’s trying to do the best she can, like pretty much all of the rest of us.”

The Miss California pageant will be webcast live for a fee of $15 at misscaliforniausa.com. Or you can buy tickets through Ticketmaster.

Here’s the fuller interview with Kylan Wenzel, whose sexual orientation is heterosexual:

The first time I watched a beauty pageant was when I was 11 in 1997 when Miss USA won Miss Universe. And ever since then, it’s kind of been implanted in my brain. I wasn’t sure how it would happen for me but it was something I put out there and waited to happen. Last year [pageant changed] the rules and it just so happens to be the last year I can compete. So it felt like everything fell into place and I was able to move my surgery up six months so that I was able to compete.

You have to put it out to the universe what you want to do and you have to follow up on it. So – let’s say for transgender individuals - even if you haven’t had your sex change and you’re not sure – you have to act like you are Miss Universe or you are the woman you see yourself being. And you do that in everyday life. So I just worked really hard. I saved for surgery with what I could – I started getting procedures early like laser hair removal – things like that. It really is about believing in yourself but you also need people to believe in you because you can’t really get that far, sometimes, when you don’t have that kind of support.

I also built what I call a visual board so I cut pictures out and I put what my dream I wanted to be – what my goals are. I put phrases, I put life models and I look at that every day as an inspiration. And then slowly, things started happening. I think as long as you always do the right thing, you’ll always be OK.

I think as you go through different phases in your life – people always ask – what’s your life model? I think it changes as you go through life experiences. So first you have to plant in your head” Nothing is impossible.

As a child I was actually kind of slow in development. I’m half Korean and half German. My first language was English but I was ESL (English as a Second Language) for three years. I did Hooked-on-Phonics. So it took me a while. I always knew I was female but it was really hard to register those feelings because of my development growing up. And I also come from a very abusive background. I think the whole thing started with my background. No matter how much I got beaten or what I was going through, there was kind of a fire in me that just said: ‘I Will!’ and ‘I Can – No matter what they say!’

I was also this kind of person who did a lot of research so I would do research on people who were from abusive backgrounds and what they end up doing – which is why I’ve never done drugs, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke or anything because I know what can happen to people who come from dysfunctional backgrounds. And then it came to a point of what my purpose was in life. So I just started to look up things like that. I read self-help books, I watched more Oprah. Things like that.

But the one thing I’ve always wanted most of all is wisdom. And I know you get it through life experience but sometimes I like to ask people older than me questions because I don’t necessarily want to experience that kind of thing – I just want to know. I also think you can learn from people’s mistakes and you can learn from people who are smarter than you. So that’s how I applied my life.

You do it at your own pace in life and there’s no right or wrong way. I just happen to do it really early. Like I have a sister and a twin brother and he’s still going through that phase. But I don’t judge people. I understand that they have to experience that for themselves to really understand. So as long as you’re aware and you understand afterwards, then it was all worth it.

My parents were abusive growing up physically and I was also sexually abused. But part of it now is really understanding and knowing your parents as human beings and why they were the way they were. So as an adult now, I don’t have any anger or resentment towards them because I understand that they had a very tough life and that’s the only way they knew how to deal with it. I just find a way to communicate with people and connect with people – I just think of what is their background and why do they react that way? And that’s how I go through my every day life with every person that I meet, let’s say in work. That way I don’t react so badly toward people.

Kylan said that after the pageant she wants to pursue a career doing something “motivational.” She might also try working in the entertainment industry either behind the camera directing or as a TV host. If that doesn’t pan out, she said she knows she’s given it her best shot and turn to another possible profession – such as being a marathon runner or a professor in planetary sciences. She once hoped to be a NASA scientist “because I’m always curious about what was out there and what we might find in our lifetime.”

Asked if she feels being the first transgender contestant in the Miss California USA Pageant means she has a responsibility to be a role model, Kylan said:

It’s definitely a responsibility. But I think it’s just part of my purpose, honestly, as a human being. I think once you become aware, you have a responsibility to other people – and not just trans people but people around you….

All I would ever say is to be your authentic self. And the best thing you can ever do for another human being is accept them fully, despite their shortcomings. That’s their path.

Miss California USA Pageant producer Keith Lewis said:

I admire the women who participate in our program because I feel blessed to work with them. But I feel humbled by the fact that they’re willing to put themselves out there; that they’re willing to stand up, center stage in a bikini, in the middle of a room with a lot of celebrity judges and be drilled and to be questioned and to be qualified for the role of Miss California. And I always think to myself – how fantastic that they embark on this journey of self-realization and self-evolvement as they attempt to grow as human beings. In this specific situation, I so admire what Kylan’s doing because she’s fought so hard to be here. All of the girls are constantly working to be part of the competition. But I so admire Kylan has worked to get here. And I think, with that in mind, I think that shows a very, very committed individual. And I think she will be successful in whatever she decides to do in her life. When we talked about her participating, she said, ‘I really just want the other girls to accept me.’ And I think they not only accept her but will celebrate her because she’s loving and she’s open and courageous and she’s trying to do the best she can, like pretty much all of the rest of us.”

Kylan adds:

When it comes to beauty – we all know that beauty is just skin deep.  Beauty is not something that is earned – it’s something you’re born with or the doctor helps you with, whatever. Beauty is what you do with it. [The judges of Miss Universe or Miss USA] always pick someone who embodies a certain kind of role model. It’s the girl that understand that that platform represents something bigger than themselves; that when they win this – it’s not about them but what they can do for others. If you want to be successful in life, it’s not about what you can win or how much money you make. It really, really starts by serving others. When you can develop a connection and you can serve other people, people will follow you because first, you’re inspirational, and two – you become influential. What the pageant does – we all get in shape. But it motivates every individual girl to really become the best of themselves…They’re trying to find the highest expression of themselves.

My philosophy is: if you every compare yourself to another woman or any other individual – if you notice, it hurts. Because any time you compare yourself to someone, it’s like an act of violence against yourself, making yourself feel like you’re less-than, and that you can’t do it. So the first thing to do is NOT to compare yourself and not be violent towards yourself – but to love yourself. And only then can you be confident in what you’re doing.

{ 6 trackbacks }

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

OS2Guy January 11, 2013 at 2:34 PM

You simply can’t get any more beautiful than Kylan Wenzel. Stunning, absolutely stunning. She certainly deserves to wear the crown of Miss California and even more so, Miss Universe. Best of luck!

Reply

Mitzy January 11, 2013 at 6:01 PM

Kylan, you have a wise and beautiful mind.

Reply

Laurence Cruz January 12, 2013 at 4:22 AM

I think Miss Wenzel would be an incredible Miss California and/or Miss U.S.A. As far as I’m concerned, she’s already a winner. Very, very best of luck to her!

Reply

TJ Long January 12, 2013 at 7:23 AM

Miss Wenzel is a very beautiful woman trans or not. I wish her nothing but success in the future. I would love to date such a beautiful smart woman.

Reply

Bamby Salcedo January 14, 2013 at 3:42 PM

Thank you so much for this wonderful and inspiring story; even though pageantry is not for everyone, I admire those courageous trans women who pursue to be in main stream pageants so that they can show that they are not only beautiful but are also intelligent and smart women.

Reply

pat langton April 7, 2014 at 12:39 PM

U go girl power to you ❇❇❇❇♥♥♥

Reply

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