Rikkie Valerie Kollé has won the Miss Netherlands crown, and she will become the second openly transgender woman to participate in the Miss Universe pageant.
“I DID IT !!!!!” Kollé, 22, wrote in an Instagram post after she was crowned in the pageant on Saturday, July 9. “Yes I’m trans and I want to share my story but I’m also Rikkie and that’s what matters to me. I did this on my own strength and enjoyed every moment."
Later down in the caption, she wrote: “Wherever you are in the world, I want to be there for you and be the example that I missed as a little me."
She finished off her Instagram post with writing, "On to many more adventures, let’s get @missuniverse ready. So excited!!!"
Kollé, a Dutch-Moluccan model and actress, hails from the city of Breda in the south of the Netherlands. She previously competed on the TV series "Holland's Next Top Model."
“This finalist has radiated throughout the show and has also made the greatest progress in the process,” the Miss Netherlands 2023 jury said about Kollé, according to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. “She has a strong story with a clear mission. The jury is convinced that the organization will enjoy working with this young woman.”
Kollé's predecessor, Ona Moody, crowned her with a tiara on stage at the AFAS Theatre in Leusden, Netherlands.
The Miss Universe pageant first started to allow transgender participation in 2012, and the first openly transgender woman competed in 2018.
Although no transgender woman has won the Miss Universe title yet, more transgender women are beginning to enter the preliminary pageants, with Daniela Arroyo González set to compete for the Miss Puerto Rico title next month.
Kollé, who underwent gender-affirming surgery this past January, wrote in an Instagram post following the procedure that she changed her name from Rik to Rikkie when she was just eleven years old.
Kollé now aspires to serve as representation and a role model for young women and the queer community, according to her finalist page. She hopes to inspire people to embrace their true selves, even in the face of rejection from their families and others around them.
She also said that although she knows all too well "what it’s like to feel alone," she is "stronger in my shoes today than ever before."
The Miss Universe 2023 competition will be held in El Salvador later this year.