A male model who identifies as a female won the Miss Netherlands crown, making him the first trans-identified individual to win the title and the second to compete in the Miss Universe pageant, traditionally female-only competitions.
Rikkie Valerie Kollé, who previously went by the name Rik, is a 22-year-old Dutch actor and model who once competed on the reality show "Holland's Next Top Model."
Kollé underwent cosmetic sex change surgery in January but has identified socially as female for years, having gone by the name Rikkie since he was 11.
The Miss Netherlands pageant organizer announced Kollé's win Monday, which occurred last Saturday at the AFAS Theater in Leusden. During the evening, the current Miss Universe, R'Bonney Gabriel, presented the contestant with a sash.
A seven-member judging panel comprised of individuals of various disciplines elected Kollé the winner. Kollé will represent the Netherlands in the Miss Universe competition in El Salvador at the end of the year.
Angela Ponce of Spain became the first trans-identified contestant to compete in the Miss Universe competition in 2018. The victor that year was Miss Philippines, Catriona Gray.
"Rikkie has beamed throughout the show and has also made the greatest progress in the process," the judges' report stated, saying the contestant has a "strong story with a clear mission."
Kollé hopes to be a "role model for all young women and queer people."
The trans-identified contestant also alluded to the hardships faced by identifying as the opposite sex and wants to inspire change with the new title.
His victory in a women's beauty competition elicited responses from critics.
"Dude with surgeries and makeup now officially the most beautiful woman in the Netherlands," Daily Wire Host Ben Shapiro wrote in a Tuesday tweet.
Conservative Dutch commentator Eva Vlaardingerbroek lamented that Kollé's win signified a loss for the women, emphasizing in a Sunday tweet that "a man just won 'Miss Netherlands' 2023.
"Considering the fact that we live in a post-Truth world, I wasn't even expecting anything else. It's all so predictable and unoriginal at this point," Vlaardingerbroek added.
Earlier this year, Kollé shared the details of the surgery he underwent to make his body resemble a woman's in an Instagram post. After receiving a call in December 2022 from the hospital regarding a date for the surgery, Kollé thought, "Finally, my dream comes true."
"From this moment on, a whole new journey will start, because I am still a transgender woman, and that will not change," he wrote. "I look forward to the future and all that is to come how happiness comes my way and I shall be loved by my neighbor."
Kollé becoming Miss Netherlands comes amid debate on whether men who identify as female should be allowed to claim awards and titles intended for women.
Last month, current and former female collegiate athletes gathered on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., alongside state and federal lawmakers and the advocacy group Moms for America to call for the passage of the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act.
The bill, which passed the Republican-majority House but stalled in the Democrat-controlled Senate, would make it a violation of federal law for "a recipient of Federal financial assistance who operates, sponsors, or facilitates athletic programs or activities to permit a person whose sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designated for women and girls."