HISTORY was made in the United States this week when a teenager called Brian became what is thought to be the first transgender person to win a ‘Miss America’ title.


What was the contest?

Brian Nguyen, 19, was named "Miss Greater Derry 2023" in a pageant held by the Miss America organisation, with the winner selected as the representative to take part in the Miss New Hampshire contest, the winner of which progresses forward as the entrant for the area in the Miss America competition.


Miss America?

The annual competition - which dates back to the 1920s - is open to women from across the US, aged between 17 and 25. It began all those years ago as a "bathing beauty" contest, but the Miss America organisation says it now judges competitors on their talent performances and their interviews. The event is usually viewed by millions on the night when it is telecast around the country.


It has had flak for sexism?

Over the years it has been accused of sexism by critics, with the swimsuit round eliminated in 2018 to try and make the event less about looks. The organisation itself states: “The public perception of Miss America is often that it’s a one-night telecast, but in reality it’s so much more. This unique program is a year-round opportunity for women to earn scholarships, grow their networks, learn valuable life and career skills, and make a difference in their communities. For over 100 years, we have been committed to empowering the advocates and leaders of tomorrow, and we’re just getting started.”


Miss Greater Derry?

For the Derry area of New Hampshire, the Miss Greater Derry Scholarship event launched in 1986 to “provide scholarships to young women between the age group of 17 and 24”, specifically “for women living in the Greater Derry area recognising their achievements in scholastic aptitude, talent, character, community service and poise”.


Now there is a new winner?

The new Miss Greater Derry for 2023 - described as a “plus size model and advocate for marginalised women” is delighted 19-year-old Vietnamese-American social media influencer, Brian. The college student, studying business management, said on Instagram: “In the 100 year history of Miss America, I have officially become the FIRST transgender titleholder within the Miss America Organization. No words can describe the feeling of having the opportunity to serve my community and represent my community for the very first time at Miss New Hampshire. I am so honored to be crowned your new Miss Greater Derry 2023, and I am thrilled to show you all what I have up my sleeves.” 


What has the response been?

Supporters said the win was "incredible" with one fan writing: "I'm in awe of you - thank you for inspiring”. But many expressed outrage. One Twitter user said "Miss America will no longer be about women - men want to make us irrelevant”. Another wrote: “We live in a very strange times indeed. One don’t have to even be a WOMAN to be a MISS. How crazy is that???"