Thai transgender tycoon buys Miss Universe Organization for $20m

Jakapong ‘Anne’ Jakrajutatip has spoken about her experience as a transgender woman and advocated for trans rights

A Thai celebrity media tycoon who is transgender woman has bought the Miss Universe Organization for $20m, marking the first time the beauty pageant organiser will be owned by a woman, her company has said.

The annual beauty contest run by the Miss Universe Organization, which was co-owned by Donald Trump between 1996 and 2002, is broadcast in 165 countries and has been running for 71 years.

Jakapong “Anne” Jakrajutatip, the chief executive and biggest shareholder of JKN Global Group, is a celebrity in Thailand, starring in local versions of reality shows Project Runway and Shark Tank.

She has spoken about her experience as a transgender woman and also set up the Life Inspired For Thailand Foundation to advocate for the rights to dignity and opportunities for transgender people.

A profile of Jakapong in the Bangkok Post newspaper earlier this year said that she studied at an all-male school where she was harassed for identifying as female.

The acquisition is “a strong, strategic addition to our portfolio,” said Jakapong, adding that Miss Universe, with its content, licensing and merchandising opportunities, plans to expand in Asia.

JKN said it has established a subsidiary in the United States, JKN Metaverse, to own the Miss Universe Organization.

JKN produces its own shows and distributes content in Thailand from abroad including documentaries and Bollywood dramas.

Thailand enjoys a positive international reputation, but when it comes to the rights and lifestyles of LGBTQ communities, the absence of a procedure for transgender people to change their legal gender, coupled with insufficient legal protections and social stigma, limits transgender people’s access to services and exposes them to daily indignities, Human Rights Watch said in a report last year.