Rikkie Valerie Kollé Is the First Trans Woman to Win Miss Netherlands

Rikkie Valerie Kollé, Miss Netherlands 2023, can still hardly believe she won her country’s annual pageant.

She spent all day on Saturday preparing for and enjoying every moment of the ceremony that night, which was attended by the reigning Miss Universe, the American R’Bonney Gabriel.

The show, which started at 8 p.m., flew by, “and two and a half hours later I was Miss Netherlands,” Ms. Kollé, 22, said in a phone interview on Tuesday, adding that her victory “had finally sunk in.”

Ms. Kollé’s win is historic: She is the first trans woman to win the pageant in the Netherlands, and she will be the second openly trans woman to compete in a Miss Universe competition when she represents her country in El Salvador later this year.

As the first trans woman to be named Miss Netherlands, Ms. Kollé said she hoped to be there for her community and help young queer people, as well as raise awareness of the long waiting times for transgender health care in the Netherlands.

“I’m going to be an open book,” she said. In February, a post on her Instagram account outlined her experiences as a child and her treatments as a teenager as well as an update about her gender-transition surgery.

But being an open book on social media comes with a lot of hate, too, and avoiding online negativity can be difficult. Ms. Kollé said she had faced a lot of online abuse and insults since winning the pageant, as had some of her close family members, including her mother and sister.

Ms. Kollé is not the first Dutch trans woman to reach the Miss Netherlands finals. Solange Dekker, a finalist from last year’s competition who took home the title of Miss Social Media, went on to become the first Dutch Miss International Queen 2023 last month, an annual pageant for trans women.

When she goes to El Salvador, Ms. Kollé will be the second trans woman to partake in a Miss Universe competition. Spain’s Angela Ponce, also a trans woman, was a finalist in 2018.

“We’re really looking for the most beautiful woman in the Netherlands,” said Monica van Ee, a member of the jury who chose Ms. Kollé this weekend. She is also the national director of Miss Netherlands.

She said that while national and international media had been interested to talk about Ms. Kollé’s victory, a lot of people had sent upsetting and threatening messages attacking Ms. Kollé.

Anne Jakrajutatip, the owner of the parent company of Miss Universe who is a trans woman herself, celebrated Ms. Kollé’s win in a statement.

“My Miss Universe superfan conversion was sitting in the front row while Angela Ponce, the first trans Miss Universe Spain, walked the runway for the first time,” Ms. Jakrajutatip said, adding that she was happy to make a statement that “trans women are women — and we are here to celebrate women.”

Ms. Kollé, who is from the southern Dutch city of Breda, has modeled since she was a teenager. She said she chose to apply to become Miss Netherlands because pageants offered her a chance to tell her story.

As a model, she said, “you’re a bit of a clothes hanger. Otherwise you mostly have to be quiet.” But in the world of pageantry, she said, “it’s also important that you have something to say.”

Ms. van Ee, Miss Netherlands’s national director, said that over the last decade or so, the pageant had modernized. Now, mothers, divorced women and trans women can participate, she said. “I took over Miss Netherlands because I wanted to make women stronger,” Ms. van Ee said. “I want to inspire young girls.”

She said she had been shocked by the number of negative responses from men and women.

The ideal winner of a Miss Netherlands competition must have an impressive presence and make heads turn when she walks into a room. She also needs a message that can inspire others, Ms. van Ee said. “Beauty comes from the inside,” she said.

She said that Ms. Kollé had been the strongest contender. “Throughout the whole process, she was the most beautiful woman,” Ms. van Ee said.

“I was chosen for who I am and my story,” Ms. Kollé said, “and not because I’m a trans woman.”

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