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Miss Universe pageant will allow transgender women

Transgender women will be allowed to participate in the Miss Universe beauty pageant next year, officials announced Tuesday, a week after they ruled a trail-blazing 23-year-old could vie for the crown this year.

Pageant officials said they are working on the language of the official rule policy change but expected final word to come soon. Trials for next year's Miss Universe pageant begin this summer.

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    Steve Marcus / X00642

    Image: Miss California Carrie Prejean

    Beauty queen scandals

    They may be beautiful, but the competition can get ugly. From blackmail to sabotage, check out the underside of the pageant circuit.

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    Miss Delaware Teen USA

    They may be beautiful, but the competition can get ugly. From blackmail to sabotage, check out the underside of the pageant circuit.

    First up: Melissa King, Miss Delaware Teen USA, resigned her crown on Feb. 26, 2013, after a sex video featuring a woman resembling her surfaced online.

    @Melissa_M_King\Twitter / @Melissa_M_King\Twitter
  • Miss USA 2012

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    Called Miss USA 'rigged'

    After Miss Pennsylvania 2012, Sheena Monnin, spoke out on Facebook against the Miss Universe organization in June, calling it "trashy" and "rigged," co-owner Donald Trump threatened a lawsuit.

    Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization
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    Facing DUI charges

    Former Miss USA Rima Fakih, pictured here on April 11, 2012 as she faces DUI charges in district court in Highland Park, Mich. Fakih pleaded no contest in the case, and on May 9 she was sentenced to probation and community service for driving under the influence and getting pulled over with an open Champagne bottle in her car.

    AP, Reuters / AP, Reuters
  • Image: Canadian model Talackova attends news conference in Los Angeles

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    A transgender Miss Universe?

    Jenna Talackova, a transgender beauty queen, protested the decision by pageant representatives to drop her from the Miss Universe Canada competition. She was finally given the green light to go by the Donald Trump-led Miss Universe Organization. The 23-year-old will, however, need to prove that she meets the "legal gender recognition requirements of Canada," according to local media.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image: Shannon Marketic, Miss USA 1992

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    Miss California 1992

    They may be beautiful, but the competition can get ugly. From blackmail to sabotage, check out the underside of the pageant circuit.

    First up: Miss California 1992 Shannon Marketic, center, was accused of stealing almost $90 in beauty products from a Target store in August 2010. Marketic, 38, denies stealing the items and says they rolled in the cart and landed underneath her purse.

    AP, Denton Police Department / AP, Denton Police Department
  • Carrie Prejean,  Billy Bush,  Nadine Velazquez

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    Former Miss California USA 2009

    Hosts Billy Bush and Nadine Velazquez listen as Miss California Carrie Prejean makes her highly publicized answer to a question from judge Perez Hilton about legalizing same-sex marriage during the Miss USA Pageant in Las Vegas on April 19, 2009. The controversy grew in ensuing weeks when Prejean became the spokesperson for a national group opposing same-sex unions, after which racy photos of her surfaced. Prejean blamed people opposing her views for the release of the photos. She eventually surrendered her crown after pageant officials accused her of missing events, an allegation she denied.

    AP / AP
  • Dayana Mendoza

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    Miss Universe 2008

    Crowned Miss Universe in July 2008, Venezuela's Dayana Mendoza kept her crown despite risque photos that showed the beauty queen topless, though covering most of her chest. The Miss Universe president said that Mendoza’s photographs had "artistic beauty."

    AP / AP
  • Playboy Playmate Athena Lundberg Celebrates At Hawaiian Tropic Zone

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    Miss Washington 2008

    Elyse Umemoto, Miss Washington and second runner-up in this year's Miss America pageant, was shown flipping off the camera while wearing her crown, playing beer pong, posing in her bra and making suggestive hand signs on TMZ.com.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Miss South Florida Fair 2008

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    Miss South Florida Fair 2008

    Jessica Wittenbrink, who was crowned Miss South Florida Fair 2008, says her evening gown was smeared with lipstick during the competition.

    Palm Beach Post via Zuma Press / Palm Beach Post via Zuma Press
  • Ingrid Marie Rivera

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    Miss Puerto Rico 2007

    Ingrid Marie Rivera smiles during a beauty pageant in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Rivera beat 29 rivals to become the island's 2008 Miss Universe contestant, despite applying makeup and wearing evening gowns that had been coated with pepper spray, pageant spokesman Harold Rosario said.

    AP / AP
  • Amy Polumbo

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    Miss New Jersey 2007

    Amy Polumbo was crowned Miss New Jersey 2007. An anonymous person threatened to reveal "scandalous" photos of the beauty queen, but Polumbo refused to cave in to the blackmail. She took the incident public and revealed the photos herself on TODAY.

    AP / AP
  • Tara Elizabeth Conner

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    Miss USA 2006

    Tara Conner, representing Kentucky, won the Miss USA title in 2006 and moved to New York City where she partied in clubs and drank despite being underage. Donald Trump gave her a reprieve, allowing her to retain the title after she agreed to enter rehab and undergo drug testing.

    AP / AP
  • MISS TEEN USA 2007 COMPETITION

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    Miss South Carolina Teen USA

    Lauren Caitlin Upton, Miss South Carolina, became a Internet sensation with her nonsensical answer to a question during the Miss Teen USA competition in August 2007. The 18-year-old got a chance to redeem herself on TODAY when she was again asked why one-fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a map.

    Miss Universe via AP / Miss Universe via AP
  • Valerie Begue

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    Miss France 2008

    Despite racy photos that appeared recently in a gossip magazine, Miss France 2008 Valerie Begue will keep her crown, but will not compete in the Miss World or Miss Universe pageants.

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    Miss Nevada USA 2006

    Katie Rees was stripped of her title in 2006 after racy photos of her appeared on the Internet. Some of the photos showed her kissing other young women, exposing her breasts and pulling down her pants to show her thong underwear. Afterwards, Rees signed a two-year, $2 million-plus deal to host a variety show at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. In April, Rees agreed to pay fines for five misdemeanor traffic violations in exchange for prosecutors dropping a charge of resisting arrest.

    AP / AP
  • Ashley Harder

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    Miss New Jersey USA 2007

    Ashley Harder held the title of Miss New Jersey USA 2007 and was set to compete in the Miss USA pageant before she became pregnant and voluntarily stepped down. Runner-up Erin Abrahamson assumed the title.

    Courier-Post via AP / Courier-Post via AP
  • Image: Christina Silva

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    Miss California USA 2008

    Christina Silva, 24, was declared Miss California USA in November only to have her crown revoked days later. Pageant official say a mix-up in tallying the votes led to the wrong woman being crowned. Silva, who is Hispanic, is suing the pageant, alleging rigging and racial bias.

    AP / AP
  • Miss World 2004 Crowned In Sanya

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    Miss Great Britain 2006

    Danielle Lloyd was stripped of her title after it was revealed that she had posed nude for Playboy and amid accusations that she was dating one of the judges at the time of the contest. Lloyd went on to star in the British reality show Celebrity Big Brother in 2007 where she and other contestants were accused of bullying and making racist comments about Indian actress Shilpa Shetty.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Bench Warmer Trading Cards Pre-Valentine Day Event

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    Miss United States Teen 2003

    Former Miss Oregon Teen USA Kari Ann Peniche was stripped of her title in 2003 after she posed nude for Playboy magazine. Peniche appeared as a patient on the VH1 television show Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew but was involuntarily discharged.

    In 2009, a racy video of Peniche, "Grey’s Anatomy" star Eric Dane and his wife Rebecca Gayheart was leaked. The 12-minute video was said to be shot inside Peniche’s apartment, and within it, Gayheart said she was high.

    WireImage / WireImage
  • Image: Miss Teen Louisiana busted for allegedly skipping out on the bill

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    Miss Louisiana Teen USA 2008

    Miss Louisiana Teen USA 2008 Lindsey Evans was stripped of her crown 10 days before completing her reign. She and her friends skipped out on a $46 restaurant bill, and Evans left behind her purse, which contained a bag of marijuana. The women were arrested for theft and drug possession when they returned to retrieve the purse.

    Splash News / Splash News
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    Miss Universe 2002

    Former Miss Russia Oxana Fedorova was fired less than four months into her reign for missing too many events. She was a law student at the time and complained that being Miss Universe interfered with her education. "I never had any intention of abandoning my university work," she said.

    The pageant president said contestants know Miss Universe is a full-time job and that winners spend 80 percent of their time traveling as goodwill ambassadors.

    AP / AP
  • Vanessa Williams Relinquishes Her Miss America Title

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    Miss America 1984

    Vanessa Williams, representing New York, became the first black Miss America. She had to resign when nude photos taken before her beauty contest victories were published in Penthouse. The crown was given to Suzette Charles, who's also black. Williams later became a successful singer with such hits as "Save the Best for Last," and "Colors of the Wind." Some of her movie credits include "Eraser," "Soul Food" and "Dance with Me." She currently plays the scheming fashion editor on "Ugly Betty."

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Beauty Queen

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    Miss World 1973

    Marjorie Wallace was dethroned about four months into her reign, after she was accused of dating too many high-profile men, including professional soccer player George Best and singer Tom Jones. The organizers said the first woman from the U.S. to win the title hadn't maintained Miss World's reputation. She later became a television host for "Good Morning Los Angeles" and "Entertainment Tonight."

    Everning Standard via Getty Images / Everning Standard via Getty Images

The move comes five days after the organization said that Jenna Talackova could compete in the Miss Universe pageant this year. Talackova, a Vancouver resident, underwent a sex change four years ago after being born a male. The advocacy group GLAAD called on the Miss Universe Organization to review her case, as well as open the competition to transgender women.

"We want to give credit where credit is due, and the decision to include transgender women in our beauty competitions is a result of our ongoing discussions with GLAAD," said Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization. "We have a long history of supporting equality for all women, and this was something we took very seriously."

Contest officials have been working closely with GLAAD to change the policy, and the advocacy group on Tuesday praised the decision and the work by Talackova to remain a contestant.

"The Miss Universe Organization today follows institutions that have taken a stand against discrimination of transgender women including the Olympics, NCAA, the Girl Scouts of America and The CW's America's Next Top Model," said GLAAD's senior director of programs Herndon Graddick. "At a time when transgender people are still routinely denied equal opportunities in housing, employment and medical care, today's decision is in line with the growing levels of public support for transgender people across the country."

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    Darren Decker / MISS UNIVERSE ORGANIZATION L.P.

    Image: Miss Universe 2011

    Miss Universe 2011

    Angola’s Leila Lopes said she hopes her victory in the Miss Universe pageant will enable her to help her own country, ravaged by poverty and war, as well as combat HIV around the world.

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    And the winner is...

    Miss Angola 2011, Leila Lopes, left, is crowned the winner of the 2011 Miss Universe Competition by Miss Universe 2010, Mexico’s Ximena Navarrete in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Sept. 12, 2011. Lopes, 25, said she plans to focus on fighting HIV around the world.

    Miss Universe Org. via EPA / Miss Universe Org. via EPA
  • Image: Miss Angola Leila Lopes appears on stage for a news conference after she was crowned Miss Universe 2011 in Sao Paulo

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    Giving back

    After winning the title of Miss Universe, Angola’s Leila Lopes, 25, told press that, “I work with poor kids, I work in the fight against HIV. I work to protect the elderly and I have to do everything that my country needs." She added: "I think now as Miss Universe I will be able to do much more."

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image: Miss Angola Leila Lopes is congratulated by other contestants after being crowned Miss Universe 2011 during the Miss Universe pageant in Sao Paulo

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    Contestants' congratulations

    Newly named Miss Universe Leila Lopes wears her crown proudly as she is congratulated by the other contestants. When asked what she would change about herself during the question-and-answer portion of the competition, Lopes said, “I'm very satisfied with the way God created me and I wouldn't change a thing."

    Reuters / Reuters
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    Miss Universe 2011

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    The runner-up

    Miss Ukraine Olesia Stefanko, left, who came in as first runner-up, embraces Miss Universe winner Leila Lopes. The 23-year-old brunette was the first woman representing the Ukraine to place this high in the Miss Universe competition.

    AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images
  • Image: Miss Angola Leila Lopes reacts as she hears the judges' decision choosing her as Miss Universe 2011 in Sao Paulo

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    Thrill of victory

    Leila Lopes, right, reacts to the announcement that she has won the MIss Universe competition. She wears a stunning strapless gold and silver gown adorned with feathers.

    Reuters / Reuters
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    No home-court advantage

    Brazil’s Priscila Machado, right, takes second runner-up in the Miss Universe competition held in Sao Paulo to loud cheers from her hometown crowd. She thanked them with several air kisses.

    EPA / EPA
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    Miss Universe 2011

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    The top 10

    The top 10 finalists in the MIss Universe competition stand proudly on stage. From left: Miss Austrailia, Miss Costa Rica, Miss France, Miss Ukraine, Miss Portugal, Miss Panama, Miss Philippines, Miss Angola, Miss China and Miss Brazil.

    AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images
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    Miss Universe 2011

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    Standing firm

    Miss Philippines Shamcey Supsup placed third runner-up at the Miss Universe pageant. When asked by judge Vivica A. Fox whether she would change her religion for the person she loved, Supsup answered with a definitive no.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Miss Universe Australia 2011 Scherri-Lee Biggs competes in the evening gown presentation show at the Credicard Hall in Sao Paulo

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    Dress stress

    Controversy surrounded Miss Australia Scherri-Lee Biggs, whose evening gown almost didn't get cleared because it was too sheer.

    Miss Universe Org. via Reuters / Miss Universe Org. via Reuters
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    Miss Universe 2011

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    Say what?

    Miss China 2011 Luo Zilin was a favorite going into the competition. She made it into the top five, but placed as fourth runner-up after an odd answer during the question portion. When asked about her thoughts regarding public nudity, Zilin said through a translator, "Every country has its rules and regulations...We should respect them and be more understanding."

    AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images
  • Image: Miss USA Alyssa Campanella walks on stage as she is chosen as a finalist in the Miss Universe 2011 pageant in Sao Paulo

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    Miss USA an also-ran

    Miss USA Alyssa Campanella was eliminated after making it to the top 16.

    Reuters / Reuters
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    Miss Universe 2011

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    Walking tall

    China’s Luo Zilin poses in her bikini on stage. The beauty says that she used to be insecure about her 6-foot height, but has grown more confident about it over the years.

    AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images
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    Miss Universe 2011

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    Going swimmingly

    Miss Universe 2011 contestants pose in swimsuits.

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    In the pink

    Miss Ukraine Olesia Stefanko wears a bikini as she competes in the Miss Universe pageant. She came in first runner-up to Miss Angola Leila Lopes.

    AP / AP
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    Good as gold

    Miss Angola 2011 Leila Lopes poses on stage in a golden-hued bikini. She went on to win Miss Universe.

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    Bevy of beauties

    Miss Universe 2011 contestants participate in the 60th annual Miss Universe beauty pageant in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

    AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images

Talackova's sex change initially led organizers in Canada to disqualify her from the 61st Miss Universe Canada pageant in May, citing a rule that she must be "naturally born" a woman.

Talackova pleaded with the pageant's leaders to drop the rule.

"I am a woman," Talackova said last week. "I was devastated, and I felt that excluding me for the reason that they gave was unjust. I have never asked for any special consideration. I only wanted to compete."

Donald Trump, who runs the Miss Universe Organization, wished her the best of luck.

The official rules will have to be approved by Trump and NBC, which co-own the contest.

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