The trans activist company behind the Miss Universe pageant has sensationally filed for bankruptcy just days before the pageant is due to take place in El Salvador.
Thai-native and trans woman Anne Jakrajutatip acquired the event for $20 million in 2022 from IMG Media, adding it to the portfolio of JKN Global Group. Between 1996 and 2015, the Miss Universe Pageant was part of Donald Trump’s business empire.
The company also owns Miss USA and Miss Teen USA.
The bankruptcy comes after the company missed out on fulfilling a $12 million loan repayment. Despite the setback, JKN has been bullish and maintains that the event will go ahead as planned.
‘Miss Universe Organization, which is only one of our many business lines, is completely clean,’ Jakrajutatip said in a post on Instagram.
Trans activist Anne Jakrajutatip, pictured third from the left with various pageant winners from over the years, bought the pageant in last year
Flight attendant Marina Machete, 23, of Portugal, is vying to be the first trans woman to win the competition at this year’s event in El Salvador
The other trans woman competing is Rikkie Valerie Kolle of the Netherlands
The entrepreneur described it was her ‘first priority in life no matter how joyful or painful it’s gonna be.’
The preliminary rounds for the pageant begin on November 15 thru 16 with the main show scheduled to start on November 18.
After taking on the pageant, new rules were put in place allowing mothers and married women to participate. The first trans participant was Spain’s Angela Ponce who made a run for the tiara in 2018.
Anne is a reality show star in Thailand on shows such as Project Runway and is outspoken about being a transgender woman.
She said at the time of the purchase that she was seeking to ‘evolve the brand for the next generation.’
This year will see at least two trans women, flight attendant Marina Machete, 23, of Portugal, and Rikkie Valerie Kolle, of the Netherlands competing. They would be the first trans women to wear the tiara if they won.
In a public statement following Machete’s crowning in October, Miss Universe said: ‘Trans women are women, full stop. We are here to celebrate women, full stop. This has been true for more than a decade, and we’re proud to have made this change very early on, compared to other programs.’
Jakrajutatip said at the time of the purchase that she was seeking to ‘evolve the brand for the next generation’
R’Bonney Gabriel after being crowned Miss Universe 2022
Between 1996 and 2015, the Miss Universe Pageant was considered part of Donald Trump ‘s business empire
Nearly 90 contestants from around the world took part in the competition, organizers said, involving ‘personal statements, in depth interviews and various categories including evening gown & swimwear.’
The winner will be crowned by last year’s winner, America’s R’Bonney Gabriel.
In the Q&A at the last stage of the competition for the three finalists last time around, Gabriel was asked how she would work to demonstrate Miss Universe is ‘an empowering and progressive organization’ if she were to win.
‘I would use it to be a transformational leader,’ she responded, citing her work using recycled materials in her fashion design and teaching sewing to survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence. ‘It is so important to invest in others, invest in our community and use your unique talent to make a difference.’
That event was held in New Orleans.
According to Miss Universe, Gabriel is a former high school volleyball player and graduate of the University of North Texas. A short bio posted on the organization’s website said she is also CEO of her own sustainable clothing line.
‘We all have something special, and when we plant those seeds to other people in our life, we transform them and we use that as a vehicle for change,’ Gabriel said.
Since the start of 2022, JKN’s share price has fallen over 80 percent. In the wake of the bankruptcy, the company has petitioned to ‘adjust interest rates on existing debt and extend its debt repayment method,’ reports The Bangkok Post.
Back in 2015, Trump was forced into selling the pageant after TV companies refused to deal with the then-presidential candidate over his racist remarks while on the campaign trail.
Around this time, one former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, said that Trump called her Miss Piggy after she gained weight after winning the contest in 1996.
‘When I purchased the pageants many years ago, they were in serious trouble. It has been a great honor making them so successful. The pageants are now in the hands of a great company that will shepherd them to even greater levels of success,’ Trump said after the sale.