Vancouver Pride Week 2012: Trans role model Jenna Talackova wants to fight for the environment

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It was an act of defiance that made Rosa Parks a civil-rights hero for refusing to give up her seat for a white bus passenger. She wasn't the first, but her actions galvanized political action in 1955.

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This year, a Vancouverite unintentionally did something similar when she, a transgender woman, did nothing more than merely enter the Miss Universe Canada pageant. When organizers disqualified Jenna Talackova, claiming she was in defiance of the regulations because she was not physically born female (something heavily contested by advocates), she was swept up in an international media frenzy. Her story electrified the Internet with debate and petitions as she enlisted legal help to be reinstated into the competition.

She not only was accepted back into the pageant but the rules have since been changed to include transgender women. Consequently, she has become an icon for the transgender rights movement.

But how does she feel about being called a civil-rights hero?

She laughs.

"I hate labels, and if you wanna call me that, great," the statuesque beauty told the Georgia Straight at the official launch of Pride Week at Vancouver City Hall. "Honestly, I did it out of pure vanity, and it turned into changing people's minds across the world and the Miss Universe organization. So I can't believe it happened. It just happened without even thinking it would happen. So I feel very proud of it. I'm very humbled."

Talackova was chosen to be one of three grand marshals at this year's Vancouver Pride Parade (to be held on Sunday [August 5]).

On the other hand, she does recognize that she has responsibilities now, and she is willingly embracing them.

"I was thrown this kind of opportunity to be a role model. And now I have a TV show coming out, so that's just going to broaden more society's eyes to trans people. And see we're just as normal as everyone else."

The experience has helped her see the potential she has, and the opportunity she has to give others what she lacked growing up.

"I never realized the power that I did have. And I realize that as a youth, I was such a wild child that I wish I had someone to look to. I looked to Harisu from Korea, the first transgender pop star and everything. And I didn't have anybody from North America to look up to," she said. "Like c'mon, RuPaul—he's a drag queen, he's not transgender, right? So I believe I got this role and I'm going to do my best with it. I'm going to do my best reaching out to young kids because this is my obligation and I see that now."

She's also been able to see how her story has helped the lives of others around the world.

"I've received weekly mail from like South America, people in Asia, saying that they finally came out to their families because of my story. So it has made an impact."

Contrary to confusion earlier this year, she does have a reality TV show in the works. While she didn't divulge any specific details, she noted that she hopes the second season of the show will focus more on travel.

She's also doing a commercial for shoe designer Stewart Weitzman next month. She did want to try out for Victoria's Secret but now doesn't have the time for it, due to her TV show and other projects.

However, there is a cause she does plan to strip down for.

"I wanna pose nude for PETA eventually, after the first season of the show. Not Playboy, but PETA."

That's because one of her greatest passions is protecting the environment and animals.

"I'm all about the environment," she said. "I eat vegan, raw diet, and I'm studying holistic nutrition. I believe in environmental integrity. It's something…I feel the most saddened by. I feel like we don't treat our world correctly. I think the pipeline and all these things are just going to damage our world. We're not looking for a means to better energy sources, and we're going to reap it for our kids and we're going to ruin it for them. I believe in animals and I believe in the environment."

You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/StraightLGBT.

Comments (9) Add New Comment
Orville Wright
Aren't her fifteen minutes of fame long over?
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Rating: -4
Mugatu
Why the fuck is this woman constantly on TV? Go away! I feel like I'm taking crazy pills . I invented the piano key necktie. I invented it! What have you done, Derek?
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Rating: -4
Pieta W.
In the future, all the world will be governed by beauty queens... and we'll be better for it:

http://www.straight.com/article-43429/pageant-winner-promotes-progressiv...
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Rating: -7
Aki
*yawn*
Time for her to simply go away.....
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Rating: 0
Perdido
I, for one, applaud her interest in the environment. While many of us spurn plastic shopping bags and plastic water bottles, Miss Talackova takes this a step further. No doubt aware that polyester now accounts for more than 40 percent of most cheap ‘made in China’ clothing, she demonstrates her commitment to the ‘greening of Vancouver’ by aspiring to strip out of her plastic clothes.
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Rating: +3
t. perx
Role models are for factory farmed humans afraid to exist outside of hallucination. Be yourself. Gender is fake. There are no trans people, just scared con artists looking to survive.
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Rating: +7
Drone
I am glad this person is helping move gender issues from taboo to mainstream. And she's a raw vegan. People could learn a thing or two from her.
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Rating: -6
Ellulite
She's brave and strong. She's a good role model.
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Rating: -5
Grackle
While Jenna seems like a lovely person, I really don't understand fighting for the right to be objectified in a misogynistic beauty pageant. So many people are working to REDUCE the rampant objectification that affects every aspect of women's lives, and Jenna is contributing to it, whether she's breaking transgender barriers or not.
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Rating: +11
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