The highly anticipated 2023 Miss Universe pageant, known for its inclusion of transgender contestants, is set to take place this Saturday. Surprisingly, just days before the event, the JKN Global Group, the organization behind the pageant, filed for bankruptcy.
The JKN Global Group, owned by Thai business tycoon and transgender activist Anne Jakrajutatip, purchased the Miss Universe franchise for an astonishing $20,000,000 in 2022. Jakrajutatip, who is renowned as a transgender celebrity across the globe, described the purchase as “a strong, strategic addition to our portfolio.”
However, barely a year later, the franchise seems to be in turmoil as the JKN Global Group declared bankruptcy in a public document sent to the Stock Exchange of Thailand. The document stated that “the Company has filed a petition for business rehabilitation with the Central Bankruptcy Court under the Bankruptcy Act B.E. 2483 (1940) (as amended) on November, 8, 2023.” The Central Bankruptcy Court subsequently accepted the petition on November 9, 2023.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the ownership of the Miss Universe franchise, the organization released a statement confirming that the pageant will still take place, and the fans can expect a “top-notch experience.” The statement further read, “We confirm that Miss Universe 2023 will be held in El Salvador on 18 November 2023, where a top-notch experience provided to our fans will remain our top priorities.”
This year’s Miss Universe pageant is poised to make history as it will feature at least two transgender contestants who identify as women for the first time. Miss Portugal, a flight attendant named Marina Machete, and Rikkie Kollé, who is the first transgender Miss Netherlands, will grace the stage. This comes after Spain’s Ángela Ponce made history as the pageant’s first transgender contestant in 2018, albeit not advancing to the finals.
In a video shared in September, Miss Portugal, Marina Machete expressed her concerns about the “rising levels of transphobia and intolerance” worldwide. However, she commended the Miss Universe organization for being inclusive and creating a platform for women to empower themselves and their communities.
The Miss Universe Organization has been vocal about its stance on inclusion and transgender rights, stating that “trans women are women, full stop.” In an interview with CNN, the organization added, “We are here to celebrate women, full stop. This has been true for more than a decade, and we’re proud to have made this change very early on, compared to other programs.”
Despite the bankruptcy filing, both the JKN Global Group and the Miss Universe Organization have not yet responded to requests for comment. Fans and the pageant world can only wait and see how the latest development will impact the highly anticipated event.