The 2019 Miss Universe pageant kicks off tonight on Fox at 7 p.m. ET, with beauty queens from 90 countries and territories competing for that coveted title. But with or without the crown at the end of the show, one of the competitors will leave a lasting impact. 21-year-old Swe Zin Htet, who is the reigning Miss Myanmar, came out as a lesbian just days ago and purposely timed her revelation to align with the competition.
Htet is the first openly gay contestant in the Miss Universe competition and she’s hopeful that her public coming out will result in positive changes for her country — back in her country of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), homosexuality is a crime. “The difficult thing is that in Burma, LGBTQ people are not accepted, they are looked down on by other people and are being discriminated against,” she told People through a translator.
“I have that platform that, if I say that I’m a lesbian, it will have a big impact on the LGBTQ community back in Burma,” she continued.
The beauty queen has already made an impact on the LGBTQ community. On Nov. 29, the day she came out about her sexuality, she took to her Instagram page to share a gay pride flag along with the word “proud.”
“Thank you for coming out. You are helping many!” one commenter wrote, while another added, “You are our LGBT queen too ❤ Go Myanmar.”
The overwhelming amount of support from fans, friends, family, and the Miss Universe organization has helped Htet feel more confident than ever to take the stage tonight. “It’s like I just started a new chapter in life,” she said.