This transcript was prepared by a transcription service. This version may not be in its final form and may be updated.
Speaker 1: Miss USA as Miss Universe. Miss Minnesota, you are the new Miss Universe. (inaudible)
Kate Linebaugh: Miss Universe has been around since 1952 when its first beauty Queen was crowned.
Speaker 3: All hail to Miss Universe, prettiest girl in the world.
Kate Linebaugh: The competition has historically centered around a personality interview, and the evening gown and swimsuit rounds. Women walk out on stage with big smiles, high heels, and lots of sparkles. The Miss Universe pageant once owned by former President Donald Trump, is now for the first time owned by a woman.
Anne Jakrajutatip: I’m the first non-American woman, in fact, a trans woman, who own it after 71 years.
Kate Linebaugh: That’s Anne Jakrajutatip. She owns a media conglomerate in Thailand. Her company recently bought Miss Universe at a time when viewership has been dropping as pageants have come under attack for objectifying women. Anne says she’s making changes, changes that are being rolled out. This week in the latest pageant.
Anne Jakrajutatip: You’re going to see the women’s empowerment platform because the hosts, two of them, they are female. Commentators, they’re all female. The judges, they’re all female. The owner is the woman. The president of the company is a woman. The CEO of the company is also a woman. So everybody, we are women on the stage. If you are a man, you’re not allowed to go on the stage, my dear. That is the evolution of Miss Universe. What you’re going to see.
Kate Linebaugh: Welcome to the journal. Our show about money, business, and power. I’m Kate Linebaugh. It’s Thursday, January 12th. Coming up on the show, Miss Universe is now owned by a woman, but will the pageant change? Do you remember watching beauty pageants when you were a kid?
Anne Jakrajutatip: Oh, all the time. I was born as a trans woman, so I knew myself. I was a girl, who trapped in the wrong body since I was five years old, and I kept watching Miss Universe since I was young. It has been my dream and inspiration, not going there by myself, I mean, going on the pageant, but having the voice of my own. I saw beauty pageant is a power of feminism, that you can have the platform of your own to have the voice to speak to the whole world.
Kate Linebaugh: Even though Anne knew she was trans at an early age, she said as a kid she tried to hide her queerness.
Anne Jakrajutatip: Because I got bullied in school. I was sexually harassed by my own teachers. I got a lot in the past that I had to overcome.
Kate Linebaugh: In other interviews Anne has said the lack of acceptance made her a “shy boy”, but through debate clubs, she learned that she liked the mic and built a career as a business woman. How did you get started in the media industry?
Anne Jakrajutatip: Yeah. I was born in a home video shop. When I was five years old, I kept watching the video. VHS is our time, I guess, it was long time ago, before it turned to be DVD and Blu-ray. My goodness, all dinosaur distinction now. All this thing. But later on I learned that this is my passion really. Kept watching all the global content from around the whole world. I knew it. The disruption must keep coming. The piracy, I cannot fight with it. I cannot deal with it. Therefore, I drop down the home video business. Yeah. No more please. I’m going to go global content management and distribution company.
Kate Linebaugh: This company she built, JKN Global, is now a big media company in Thailand. Anne has also founded a trans rights advocacy group, and she’s been a reality TV star seen on shows like Project Runway and Shark Tank.
Anne Jakrajutatip: The media conglomerate group that I have, I own Peacock in Thailand. It’s called CNBC Thailand. I own Terrestrial TV in Thailand. I own altogether 15 companies, from the beverage company, nutrition, skincare, cosmetic, everything, and fashion apparel coming up. When I have more than 20 million followers on my social media, whatever that I say, I am one of the most influential persons in Thailand. God gave me the mission here, and I often say this all the time. You need to know your passion and develop into the profession, and you need to use your own personality on the purpose of your life to serve the true calling of your soul.
Kate Linebaugh: Last year, JKN bought the Miss Universe organization for $20 million. The pageant had been struggling. Ratings and viewership have been steadily declining for years, and it’s no longer broadcast by the biggest TV networks in the US, but Anne thinks she can parlay the beauty pageant’s brand into a successful business.
Anne Jakrajutatip: Having the brand of Miss Universe into my ecosystem, into my portfolio, would empower the business in terms of having the power of feminism brand. First product that you’re going to see is Miss Universe mineral water, and after that you’re going to see fashion apparel with the followers that we have, the belief, the faith that they have over the brand. That’s why there are the big fans to the consumer products that we’re going to release.
Kate Linebaugh: What does a beauty pageant stand for in your opinion?
Anne Jakrajutatip: For me, it’s not eye candy business. The definition of beauty here to me is you need to be transformational leader. You need to have the leadership in you, not just the beauty, I mean, the look, the walk, the talk, but the brand, the vision that you need to have. That’s why I look into the beauty passion call Miss Universe. I don’t see it as beauty passion, but I see it as the number one beauty Olympics, or the number one global women’s empowerment platform. Global. Global stash. This is the thing. This is the word that I just would love to emphasize. I could have the global platform for myself to speak out and to organize all the women to have their own voices.
Kate Linebaugh: How do you choose the contestants?
Anne Jakrajutatip: This is the thing. Great question. Yes. This is the first year that we allow, we allow married women, pregnant women, divorced women to be able to enter into the competition because I would love them to feel inclusive.
Kate Linebaugh: Inclusive to a point. There’s an age cap. Contestants have to be between the ages of 18 and 28, and the Miss Universe pageant has long been known for crowning only a very particular type of woman.
Speaker 3: The world beauty queen is a golden blonde, five feet, five inches tall, 110 pounds presented by…
Kate Linebaugh: What is the value of a beauty Olympics?
Anne Jakrajutatip: Is the glory in life. Women, you cannot deny, we all want to be beautiful no matter what size, what skin color. Yeah. No matter how, no matter who, where you from, short hair, long hair, curly hair. Yeah? Short or tall, you really want to be called beautiful no matter what. You don’t want to be ugly. That is number one. Okay? So you can see we allow all women to enter into the competition, and a lot of former Miss Universe, they come from all the various background.
Kate Linebaugh: But they’re generally one size.
Anne Jakrajutatip: No. Oh, this year you can see Harnaaz, year 2021, she’s having different size from India. Yeah. She’s not that skinny at all, and real size beauty is something that we recognize.
Kate Linebaugh: Anne’s talking about last year’s Miss Universe winner. India’s Harnaaz Sandhu. Sandhu told People Magazine that after winning the crown, she gained weight and was bullied online for it, and fat shaming isn’t new to the pageant. Over the years, contestants have spoken out about it. Like Alicia Machado, the 1996 winner who said she was mistreated by Trump when he owned Miss Universe. What were the names that he called you?
Alicia Machado: Miss Piggy, Miss Housekeeping, Miss Eating Machine.
Kate Linebaugh: All to your face?
Alicia Machado: Yes, all the time. That was really normal for…
Kate Linebaugh: We reached out to Trump’s representatives but didn’t hear back. When you were growing up, you told me that you were bullied because you’re a trans woman.
Anne Jakrajutatip: Yeah. Correct.
Kate Linebaugh: Beauty pageants are criticized for promoting one way of looking beautiful, and that many young girls feel that these pageants make them feel bad about themselves and their bodies. What can you do to change that?
Anne Jakrajutatip: We have to allow all women to come in. We cannot bully them, for sure, and that’s why I accept, and I spread out a policy of having all size, all colors, all kind of women to be able to come into the competition. So you can see, yeah, that we have the diversity, for sure. We have to eradicate, I mean, eradicate that kind of belief that you are not enough, you are not beautiful enough. You can come into the competition.
Kate Linebaugh: Anne isn’t changing everything about the pageant coming up, what she plans to do about the controversial swimsuit round. Anne staunchly believes that the Miss Universe pageant is a celebration of women.
Anne Jakrajutatip: I don’t want people to see my competition, the number one beauty Olympics in the world, as to objectify women. I don’t want them to misunderstand what I’m doing.
Kate Linebaugh: But isn’t that sort of baked into a beauty pageant?
Anne Jakrajutatip: Oh. Other beauty pageant, I cannot answer on their behalf, but we have a different kind of context. The way that you present it, the presentation, that would make the difference. That’s why when you see Miss Universe organization where we have all the swimming suit competition involve, you don’t feel women being objectified at all. It’s the way that you cleverly present them on the stage.
Kate Linebaugh: So you are keeping the swimsuit competition?
Anne Jakrajutatip: I keep it. That is the beauty of being feminine. It’s the power of feminism. Yeah. I would not delete it. It’s going to be boring, but the context of presenting it is different. That’s all.
Kate Linebaugh: I can imagine there are a lot of feminists out there who would disagree that keeping the swimsuit competition is feminism.
Anne Jakrajutatip: Well, they going to change the mind once they see the context, or the way that we present on the stage.
Kate Linebaugh: Right. But it’s Beauty Olympics. The beautiful part of it is a tiny waist, and long legs, and sparkly dresses, and swimsuits. It’s reinforcing the beauty standards for women, not redefining them.
Anne Jakrajutatip: How do you want them to be redefined?
Kate Linebaugh: Like what you’re talking about, transformational leadership, how a woman talks. Should that-
Anne Jakrajutatip: Yeah.
Kate Linebaugh: Should we not see the woman, and we just hear them?
Anne Jakrajutatip: You know what, we had the interview period. Yeah?
Kate Linebaugh: Yeah.
Anne Jakrajutatip: Two days, three days with them. We don’t pay attention to their look at all, actually. We actually spend time, almost one hour to two hours per one person, talking about their story. Yeah. Really we spend a lot of time. We call interview room, in Thai language, we call dark room. You know that. Dark room means that we don’t actually pay attention on your look, but on your talk. Yeah.
Kate Linebaugh: Anne also points to other differences. This year there isn’t an individual award for the swimsuit round, and to give the contestants another way to express themselves, Anne had them paint designs on capes they wear over their swimsuits.
Anne Jakrajutatip: This year we just have what we call cape. Yeah. We gave them three months ago to paint whatever they want to represent the culture of their own country. When they come out on the stage with the beginning, they have to look healthy. They have to present how they look after themselves, how to get fit, how to be healthy instead of, okay, looking at me, “I’m sexy. I am the sex symbol.” No This is not my stage, not Miss Universe organization.
Kate Linebaugh: Those capes were on display last night when Miss Universe aired this year’s preliminary round.
Speaker 6: Greece. Guatemala. Haiti.
Kate Linebaugh: Some of the capes carried messages like, “Arab women should be represented,” and “Be brave like Ukraine.” Others had drawings of things like butterflies, trees, and flowers. And Anne is excited about the change allowing married, pregnant, and divorced women to enter future contests.
Anne Jakrajutatip: Married women. You can see them maybe next year. Pregnant women, and also divorced women. Mommy can come on the stage. Hello? Your babies can cheer you up. Yes. We are the global women’s empowerment platform, and we would love to see us doing the service.
Kate Linebaugh: But as a global empowerment platform for women. Why is beauty part of it at all?
Anne Jakrajutatip: It has to be, my dear. It has to be. Yeah. It has to be because it’s called Beauty Olympics. Yeah. Why not? If you’re just competing the brand, you can go to the debate show, but this is Beauty Olympic competition, so it has to be one of the qualifications, my dear.
Kate Linebaugh: Okay, Anne, one final question here. In New Orleans this weekend, will you be on stage for the crowning of this year’s winner?
Anne Jakrajutatip: I’m not crowning her. Of course. I will have very, very short contribution. I mean, the short part, yeah, that inspire people. I will make sure that I’m useful. That’s why I’m on the stage. Yeah.
Kate Linebaugh: Thank you so much, Anne.
Anne Jakrajutatip: Bye-bye. Take care. Respect you. Bye-bye.
Kate Linebaugh: That’s all for today, Thursday, January 12th. The Journal is a co-production of Gimlet and the Wall Street Journal. If you like our show, follow us on Spotify, or wherever you get your podcast. We’re out every weekday afternoon. Thanks for listening. See you tomorrow.
Credit: Source link