Imagine attending a beauty pageant, not knowing what to expect. Maybe you end up with a tiara and some press, maybe you leave with some great memories, or, just maybe, you get the chance to meet your future wife.
This was the case for beauty queens Fabiola Valentín and Mariana Varela, known as Miss Puerto Rico and Miss Argentina respectively. The two met at the 2020 Miss Grand International competition that took place in Bangkok, Thailand. After posting about their “close friendship” for two years, they revealed on Oct. 28, 2022 that they had been in a private relationship and just got married.
The two revealed the news via an Instagram Reel that was posted on both of their accounts. The reel contained several clips of their relationship over the years, showing pictures of their vacations and the night they proposed, a close up of their matching engagement rings, and a clip of their wedding day, where they were both dressed in white and kissing outside of a courthouse. The caption reads, “After deciding to maintain our privacy in our relationship, we opened the doors on a special day. 28/10/22” followed by a line of a heart, ring, and sparkle emojis.
While the two had posted together previously, they had never confirmed their relationship prior to tying the knot. Until then, their posts had captions, such as, “Glitter night with my @marianajvarela” and “A summer with you” (as seen on Valentín’s Instagram account), but never implied being more than close friends. The two are much more open now, often sharing pictures and videos of them kissing with captions, such as, “Happy New Year; love, happiness and wellness; I love you with my whole being @fabiolavalentinpr” (as seen on Varela’s Instagram).
They have received an outstanding amount of support from their fans, as seen from their comment sections. Whether the two will return to the beauty pageant scene is unknown, but both currently have modeling careers and hint at a collaborative project.
The story of Valentín and Varela’s relationship is not only unique but transformative. The prevailing perception of beauty pageants is a cisheteronormative space created for and by straight males. Not many people associate beauty queens with queerness, so it isn’t surprising that the two chose to keep their relationship private. Considering the traditionally heteronormative gaze of the beauty pageant audience, it was likely that they would receive backlash for coming out. The risk Valentín and Valera took in publicizing their love marks their choice as one of hopeful bravery.
It is also crucial to note their ethnic intersectionality. Though both Argentina and Puerto Rico are seen as progressive countries in terms of LGBTQ+ rights with the countries having legalized same-sex marriage in 2010 and 2015 respectively, homophobia persists. As representatives of their countries, Valentín and Valera show fellow Latinas how beautiful queer love can be and that they don’t have to choose between cultural norms and sexual orientation.
Valentín and Valera mark the first known beauty queens to have fallen in love with a fellow pageant member, but they are not the first queer beauty queens. Swe Zin Htet of Myanmar was the first openly gay Miss Universe contestant, and Angela Ponce made history as the first transgender Miss Universe in 2018. By having more and more pageant contestants come out, they allow for further inclusion in these competitions. Having queer pageant contestants is already something new, but having two queer contestants who fall in love and get married? That’s something one would only expect to happen in the movies. We wish only the best for the happily ever after of Valentín and Valera.
Author: Maya Parra (She/Her)
Copy Editors: Min Kim (They/Them), Bella (She/They)