Shaine Soni will now go on to represent the South Asian country at Miss International Queen, the world's largest beauty pageant for trans women.
India has just crowned this year's Miss Trans Queen—fashion designer Shaine Soni. Now, she is set to take on the international stage where she hopes to bring awareness to the issues that affect one of the country's most marginalized communities. First established in 2017, Miss Trans Queen India is the nation's beauty pageant for transgender women. Winners have the opportunity to represent India at Miss International Queen, the world's largest beauty pageant for transgender women from different parts of the world. Miss International Queen is set to take place next year, CNN reports. Though the pandemic stalled this year's Indian chapter of the beauty pageant, chairwoman and founder Reena Rai was not ready to give up.
"My pageant isn't just about beauty, it is about empowerment and inclusion," she explained. "If I am going to send someone without holding a competition, then I have to make sure that they are a very strong candidate, the best of the best, someone who knows the value of [becoming Miss] Transqueen India." To Rai, Soni was the obvious choice for first place. She has previously helped coach other contestants and has even selected their outfits. She is also well known on the pageant circuit as a fashion designer and stylist.
The founder said, "She has always been a very strong backbone for Trans Queen India. I told her that because you've been with us and how important it is, and because you have been struggling with publicly coming out, this might be the best platform to do so because it is something that a lot of people will draw strength and inspiration from." Soni said she is now in a place where she is ready to publicly take the title of Miss Trans Queen India. She affirmed, "I am in a place where I can accept this title because I have gone through so much and know how difficult it is to be where I am today. If someone reads about me and finds comfort, I think my purpose is absolutely met."
Soni, who was assigned male at birth, struggled with her gender growing up. She faced immense pressure from her family, who discouraged her from being "feminine." She was not allowed to grow her hair, wear "girly" clothes, or exhibit "feminine" mannerisms. She shared, "With so much pressure and bullying around me, I desperately felt I was different and that there was a problem in me." However, as a teenager, she found some relief when she conducted her own research about gender identity and gender confirmation surgery. At the young age of 17, she left home to pursue an education in fashion. She also underwent hormonal therapy to transition.
She never officially came out to her family, and many of her friends simply abandoned her through the difficult process of transitioning. Nonetheless, Soni graduated from the National Institute of Fashion Technology and went on to start her own design label. Since then, she has won a reality design show and launched a career as a stylist. This is how she met Rai. At the time, she was not comfortable enough to participate in Miss Trans Queen India, so she helped out behind the scenes. The new queen is now ready to take the global stage by storm. "It is not just about me—it gives me the opportunity to hear the stories of those who have felt unheard for years and can't be vocal about what they feel," she stated. "I can be a voice for them."