Paolys Reyes was crowned Miss Piel Canela 2021. Photo: Instagram.
Paolys Reyes was crowned Miss Piel Canela 2021. Photo: Instagram.

How Paolys Reyes became the first-ever transgender beauty queen in Puerto Rico

It’s a ray of hope after what was a violent year for the island’s LGBTQ+ community.


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Last year, Puerto Rico infamously drew global attention for the murder of seven transgender people in what was the island’s most violent for the LGBTQ+ community in at least a decade. 

Many of them were left misgendered by authorities.

This year, in a ray of hope, Paolys Reyes has been chosen by the people of Puerto Rico to become the first trans Beauty Queen to win Miss Piel Canela 2021.

After her win, Reyes expressed great appreciation to her loyal fans and revealed her win as just the beginning for trans rights.

“Thank you all for your support. I will not disappoint you. We will continue to open doors,  our trans world is respectable," she expressed on Facebook.

The Latina beauty revealed that although she is a beauty queen, she didn’t always have 

the confidence that she is known for, but she remained positive and decided to go for it, regardless of what people think.

“Everything is possible," Reyes shared. "So I took the challenge because I'm a very brave woman."

Paolys Reyes, also known as ‘Paolys Wonder’ on social media, is a native of Bayamón and won the talent category by reenacting a Beyoncé song.

The former hairstylist gained the attention of many human rights activists on social media that declared Reyes not only as the queen of Puerto Rico, but also a groundbreaking ruler that everyone needs right now, especially during the uncertain times brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite her triumph, there is still much work to do regarding LGBTQ+ rights and protections in Puerto Rico. 

The January murder Samuel Edmund Damien Valentin was a stark reminder.

It grasped the attention of officials on the island and led angry protestors to demand Gov. Luis Pierluisi do something about it.

Last month, Pierluisi, declared a state of emergency in response to the devastating murders that impacted the LGBTQ+ community in Puerto Rico.

“Gender violence is a social evil, based on ignorance and attitudes that cannot have space or tolerance in the Puerto Rico that we aspire to,” Pierluisi said in a statement, according to CNN.

The state of emergency will be in effect until June 30, 2022.

Puerto Rican authorities also reported that at least 5,517 women were victims of domestic violence last year.

The island, like much of Latin America, is still stuck in the machismo culture way of life that thrives on what a stereotypical male should be. Another assumption is that women are to remain submissive and abide by what the man says.

As Puerto Rico tries to recover from the violence and Hurricane Maria, and adjusts to a new governor, one thing that we know for sure is trans rights are human rights, and it is time for the island to accept it.


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