Transgender woman, 26, crowned Miss New Zealand – despite being disowned by her family


A transgender Filipino woman has made history after being the first to achieve the highly coveted title of Miss Intercontinental New Zealand 2020.

Arielle Keil, 26, who was born in Davao City, Philippines as a boy named Andrew, but grew up in Auckland, New Zealand, underwent gender reassignment surgery earlier this year. 

The glamorous trailblazer, who is the first post-operative transgender contestant to compete in the Miss New Zealand beauty pageant, describes the concept as not being outdated but ‘actually bada**’. 

Speaking to Metro.co.uk, Arielle said: ‘The pageant was an amazing experience! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for the longest time so to actually live out my dream has been amazing!’ 

Arielle Keil, 26, (pictured) has made history after being the first transgender and Filipino woman to achieve the title of Miss Intercontinental New Zealand 2020

Arielle (pictured), who underwent gender reassignment surgery earlier this year, said competing in the beauty pageant has been a dream of hers

Arielle (pictured), who underwent gender reassignment surgery earlier this year, said competing in the beauty pageant has been a dream of hers 

Arielle (pictured) said coming out as transgender is more 'terrifying' than being a gay man because the way people view you changes forever

Arielle (pictured) said coming out as transgender is more ‘terrifying’ than being a gay man because the way people view you changes forever 

Arielle, who is studying for a fashion design bachelor’s degree, revealed coming out as a transgender woman was more ‘terrifying’ than telling people about being a gay man.

She explained that despite being aware that the way people view her would change, she decided to be openly transgender to avoid having any regrets in later life.

Arielle said: ‘I’d already spent the formative years of my life as the wrong gender, I didn’t want to waste my twenties in the wrong body either.

‘This way of thinking really helped me come out to my parents because I knew that whatever their reaction was, this was something I needed to do for myself.’ 

The 26-year-old, who began transitioning in 2017, was initially kicked out by her family, who struggled to support her decision.

When Arielle’s parents found out she was undergoing hormone treatment, they gave two choices – stop or leave home.

That night she packed everything she owned into a black rubbish bag and walked out, not knowing what would become of her. 

Arielle Keil (pictured) explained she made a decision to come out as transgender to avoid having any regrets in later life

Arielle Keil (pictured) explained she made a decision to come out as transgender to avoid having any regrets in later life 

Arielle, who was born as a boy named Andrew (pictured), was kicked out of her house when her parents discovered she was undergoing hormone treatment

Arielle, who was born as a boy named Andrew (pictured), was kicked out of her house when her parents discovered she was undergoing hormone treatment 

Born in the Philippines and emigrating as a toddler, Arielle (pictured) said Filipino's see beauty pageants the same way Kiwis view rugby

Born in the Philippines and emigrating as a toddler, Arielle (pictured) said Filipino’s see beauty pageants the same way Kiwis view rugby

‘My life turned upside down when I transitioned … but I would rather go through hell as a woman than have an easy life as a man,’ she said. ‘Whatever the universe wants to throw at me – do it.’ 

Arielle, who was raised by the church to believe she would rot in hell for wanting to be a woman, has battled severe bouts of depression and contemplated taking her own life.

But despite the hardship, she chose to live life unapologetically and now says she’s happy, not scared, and here to stay as a woman.  

Although New Zealand’s health system does allow for publicly funded gender-affirming surgery, in some cases, the process to gain approval is arduous and the waiting list is long. 

So Arielle elected to go to Thailand and pay paid $15,000 for the ‘top to bottom’ procedure that involved breast implants and a vaginoplasty.

Arielle (pictured) elected to go to Thailand and pay paid $15,000 for the 'top to bottom' procedure that involved breast implants and a vaginoplasty

Arielle (pictured) elected to go to Thailand and pay paid $15,000 for the ‘top to bottom’ procedure that involved breast implants and a vaginoplasty

'My life turned upside down when I transitioned ... but I would rather go through hell as a woman than have an easy life as a man' Arielle said

‘My life turned upside down when I transitioned … but I would rather go through hell as a woman than have an easy life as a man’ Arielle said

Achieving the title of Miss Intercontinental New Zealand 2020 is not unprecedented when it comes to pageants around the globe 

Ángela Maria Ponce Camacho became the first transgender woman to compete in the Miss Universe contest after claiming the title of Miss Spain in 2018.

Before that, one of Arielle’s hero’s Jenna Talackova, won a lengthy legal battle in 2012 which allowed her to compete in the Miss Canada pageant.  

‘People think it’s world peace and fake smiles but the women who compete are beautiful on the inside. They’re out doing stuff in their communities. They’re educated. For me, they’re like badass and I always wanted to be like that,’ she told the NZ Herald.

Born in the Philippines and emigrating as a toddler, Arielle said Filipinos see beauty pageants the same way Kiwis view rugby. 

She has received a stream of praise from fans on Instagram since being crowned, as many admit they’re ‘proud’ of her accomplishment.

One person wrote: ‘Congratulations my friend xxxx so beautiful’  

A stream of comments on Arielle's Instagram come from those praising her accomplishment and dubbing her a role model

A stream of comments on Arielle’s Instagram come from those praising her accomplishment and dubbing her a role model 

‘Ohhh myyy new idol. So happy for you my sister. Congratulations! Greetings from Australia and Philippines,’ another comments. 

A third added: ‘I am so proud of you Ari. Raise our flag, good luck’

Recently, New Zealand has introduced a number of controversial new curriculum guidelines which enables school children to choose their own gender and pronounces. 

Although the initiative has received some backlash, Arielle says it’s not something anyone should worry about. 

‘They’re not asking you to transition with them, it won’t change your daily life. You won’t lose anything by being kind, loving and supportive,’ she said.

Arielle (pictured) was raised by the church to believe she would rot in hell for wanting to be a woman

Arielle (pictured) was raised by the church to believe she would rot in hell for wanting to be a woman

Arielle is urging others to respect others like her. 'They're not asking you to transition with them, it won't change your daily life. You won't lose anything by being kind, loving and supportive,' she said

Arielle is urging others to respect others like her. ‘They’re not asking you to transition with them, it won’t change your daily life. You won’t lose anything by being kind, loving and supportive,’ she said



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