Jenna Talackova's lawyer calls on Donald Trump to fight "blatant discrimination"
Vancouverite Jenna Talackova just wanted to compete like all the other girls. But Miss Universe Canada said no. And now, Talackova's American lawyer is calling Donald Trump to take a clear stand against discrimination.
Contestant Jenna Talackova was rejected from the Miss Universe Canada competition on March 23 after organizers identified her as a trans person. The Miss Universe Canada website stated that although she was chosen as one of 65 finalists, she was removed "because she did not meet the requirements to compete despite having stated otherwise on her entry form".
On April 2, the Miss Universe Organization stated on the Miss Universe Canada website that the organization "will allow Jenna Talackova to compete in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada pageant provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions.”
At a press conference in Los Angeles today, Talackova's American lawyer, Gloria Allred, who has been involved in high-profile cases including O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson, pulled no punches.
"The pageant's rule is simply blatant discrimination, and has nothing to do with who would be the best choice for Miss Universe," she said. "She [Talackova] has not asked for any special consideration…. What has stood in her way is an antiquated rule, grounded in prejudice, fear, and stereotypes. The pageant's rule has nothing to do with beauty, or personality, and has absolutely nothing to do with who Jenna is today…. She should never have been judged by what she was, or was not like, at her birth. She should only have been judged on the basis of who she is now."
She explained that the 23-year-old Talackova was told by pageant representatives that she was rejected from the Canadian pageant because she wasn't a "naturally born" woman.
Allred insisted that Jenna is a woman, "as evidenced by her Canadian birth certificate, passport, and driver's license". Allred even displayed Talackova's Canadian passport, which identifies her as a woman.
Allred said the statement from the Miss Universe organization, co-owned by Trump and NBC Universal, "confuses the issue", was a "wimpy, wish-washy" answer.
"Mr. Trump qualifies it by adding conditions that are ambiguous," she said. "What other competitions is he referring to? Why would Mr. Trump defer to other competitions? Does he want to be a leader, or a follower? We are asking Mr. Trump to step up and be a leader in the fight against discrimination. Or would he prefer to hide behind other organizations and say that if they discriminate, so can he."
She noted that he failed to state anything about eliminating the rule that excluded her, and that they want a clear answer.
"He has to go the rest of the way and say it loudly and say it clearly that not only will Jenna be allowed to compete, but that the rule is gone. No ifs, ands, buts, or ors. No conditions, and no excuses. Otherwise, we are considering all of Jenna's legal options."
Talackova has formed legal teams in Canada, New York, and California. In Canada, she is represented by one of Canada's leading human rights lawyers Joseph Arvay.
Talackova echoed statements by Allred, and said that she is standing up not only for herself but others as well.
"I also want Mr. Trump to clearly state that this rule be eliminated because I do not want any other woman to suffer the discrimination that I have endured," Talackova said.
Talackova's plight garnered international media attention and generated debate across the internet. A petition, requesting Talackova's reinstatement, was launched shortly after she was rejected and has gathered more than 40,000 signatures.
The 61st annual Miss Universe Canada Pageant will be held in Toronto from May 11 to 20.