New Zealand's first transgender beauty queen opens up on what it takes to win

Arielle Keil has fought hard to be where she is.
Arielle Keil has fought hard to be where she is. Photo credit: Facebook/supplied

While many girls dream of being beauty queens, Arielle Keil had to wait years for her chance.

Until 2012 it was against the rules for transgender women to compete in pageants - and even now, almost ten years on, there are only a couple of pageants which allow trans women.

One of these is Miss Intercontinental - a title which Keil has made history by winning. 

The 26-year-old is the first transgender woman to take home the prize she has spent years fighting for. 

"For the longest time it was my dream, and now it's my reality," she told Newshub.

The win was a surreal moment for her - not only did she have the crown, sash and title she had always dreamed of, but she was the first ever transgender woman to have them. 

She says getting to where she is now wasn't an easy journey.

Keil was raised in an extremely conservative family - when she announced she would transition to female in 2012, she was given an ultimatum by her father.

"I was given the option to stop transitioning or get out - so I said 'okay, I'm out.'"

It took a long time to recover from the abandonment issues she experienced - but now, she is thriving.

"I had to fight really hard to be myself, so I have a really special kind of love for myself because of that."

Her father has changed too - he came and watched his daughter compete for her title.

"He was raised super conservative Catholic, so he was raised to believe that people like me are evil and disgusting - but when you have a child who is queer, or who is trans, then you're forced to reassess those thoughts," she told Newshub.

"And he said he was proud of me, he respects me - that means more to me than any crown."

Finally her dreams have been realised and from here Keil is focussed on going even further.

"I always wanted to be the girl on the runway,  and now I am working towards being that woman that I always wanted to be."

Keil will head overseas in 2021 to represent New Zealand on a global stage. Through her hard work and determination she is living her childhood dream, and says others can and should follow her example.

"I'm far from perfect but I do believe I'm a good example of drive and ambition - I work really, really hard and it's paid off."

For other members of the LGBTQI+ community, Keil has a message.

"Keep fighting."

"The world can make us feel like freaks, like we're not what we say we are. But I know who I am. 100 people can call me a man but when I look at myself in the mirror I see a woman - mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually."