Though South Africa’s very own Zozibini Tunzi walked away with the crown and prestigious title of Miss Universe 2019, it was Miss Myanmar’s SweZin Htet who stole the spotlight in Atlanta when she became the first openly lesbian contestant to the 67-year-old pageant.
The singer and actress made a huge impact being her authentic self on a global stage of the largest pageant in the world, despite not making it as one of the top finalist.
Just days before the international event, Htet spoke out in favour of the LGBT rights and marriage equality, even though Myanmar (previously known as Burma) has a strict homosexuality law.
Speaking to Missology Blog, Htet says: “I came to a full realisation about my sexual orientation over a long period of time. I knew I was ‘one of them’ way back in 2015. It is personally quite challenging but I feel that I have a greater voice and the best position to promote this cause. Some pageant fans know
about it and they still support me but this is the first time I am able to talk about it in public”.
Htet confirmed the timing of her coming out was intended to coincide with the Miss Universe pageant, which airs annually to more than 190 countries, with an audience of over 500 million people.
“I have that platform that, if I say that I’m a lesbian, it will have a big impact on the LGBTQ community back in Burma,” she asserted in People magazine.
“The difficult thing is that in Burma, LGBTQ people are not accepted, they are looked down on by other
people and are being discriminated against.
“It’s like I just started a new chapter in life”.
Myanmar is considered to be an extremely conservative country, where the LGBTQ community have no protections from discrimination. If convicted for homosexuality one can face penalties of up to 10 years to life in prison.
“LGBTQ people in Myanmar do not have equal rights and I want to change that. I feel like if I am open about my sexuality, others will open up too,” she said speaking to Glamour.
President of The Miss Universe Organisation, Paula Shugart commented, “We are honoured to give a platform to strong, inspirational women like Miss Universe Myanmar, who are brave enough to share their unique stories with the world”.