The First Openly Lesbian Beauty Pageant Winner Takes the Crown in Florida

· Updated on September 6, 2023

Emma-Jay Webber, a 41-year-old single mom and forklift driver, has earned the crown of Ms. World International Woman, becoming the first out lesbian finalist in a major beauty pageant. “Forever grateful,” she celebrated on Instagram. “And yes…I cried.”

Webber has been making waves in the beauty pageant circuit since 2017, when she entered the plus-size model British Beauty Curve pageant to improve her self-esteem. Since then, she has competed in multiple local and international pageants, championing body positivity and LGBTQ+ rights along the way. By 2022, she was strutting down the Ms. Great Britain catwalk national finals in a blue bodysuit waving a progress Pride flag.

This year, Webber went on to represent the UK in the televised Miss World International pageant in Miami, taking LGBTQ+ Pride to the home of “Don’t Say Gay.” Now she has officially been crowned Ms. World International Woman, an honor reserved for participants who advocate for diversity, after placing fourth overall.

As historic as her victory is, Webber is no stranger to making history. “In the pageantry industry itself, there is hardly any LGBTQ+ history,” she told PinkNews. “When I won my first title, I became the first openly lesbian woman in UK pageantry, and that was 2019. That wasn’t that long ago, which is unbelievable. It was kind of a surprise to [me].”

While she has found sisterhood and acceptance in the pageant circuit, she acknowledged the heteronormative problems that still plague the industry. “The terminology used in the terms and conditions have changed in the UK,” she explained. “When I first competed, technically I was breaking the rules in the Mrs category because I was married to a woman at the time.

“The rules clearly stated that you had to be married to a man to be in the Mrs category. There are still rules globally that [say] to compete in a woman’s pageant, you have to be the same gender you were assigned at birth, which is unbelievable.

“A woman is a woman, a trans woman is a woman, they should be able to compete.”

Experiences like these inspired Webber to put LGBTQ+ advocacy at the forefront of her work. “You could just feel that atmosphere. People were looking and whispering, and that’s when I kind of realized, hang on a minute, this isn’t right. I needed to do something about it. My platform then changed to LGBTQ+ rights within pageantry.”

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