Miss Venezuela 2023 Ileana Marquez (left) of Amazonas state is crowned by outgoing Miss Venezuela 2022 Diana Silva, during the Miss Venezuela beauty pageant in Caracas on Dec. 7, 2023. (Photo: Federico Parra/AFP via Getty Images)
(CNN) — Ileana Márquez, 27, is the first mother to win the title of Miss Venezuela and will represent her country in the next edition of Miss Universe, which will take place in Mexico. The contest took place this Thursday in Caracas.
Márquez, a preschool teacher, said that what motivated her to participate in this year's pageant was that "for the first time in the Miss Venezuela Organization they accept mothers, married and divorced," she said in an interview published on the event's official website.
A touching 🙌 hug! A girl's smile proud of her mother, who has just become the new #MissVenezuela2023 👑 How many RTs 🔃 for this moment? pic.twitter.com/PK14UymBD0
— Miss Venezuela (@MissVzla) December 8, 2023
Born in the city of Valencia, the activist also referred to another achievement of which she is proud: "completing my studies in early childhood education (preschool), having achieved it as a young and single mother has been one of my greatest successes".
Márquez added that being a mother in her youth was a decisive experience in her life, as she had to face a society in which she "did not fit her standards." In addition, she stressed that she feels "proud to be the mother of Guadalupe Antonella", whom she defines as her most important engine to continue growing as a person and as a professional.
"My greatest ambition is to be able to be an example for all those young women who feel outside the social patterns. Help them understand that this does not define them," said the representative of the state of Amazonas, on the Miss Venezuela website.
The 2023 edition of the contest had 25 participants who were chosen from almost 2,000 applicants.
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The Miss Universe pageant, which was first held in 1952 in the U.S., has sparked debate about whether it discriminates because of rules that exclude women who are married, divorced or have children from participation.
In some countries, the rules of the contest are even stricter. For example, in 2018 the organization in Ukraine stripped Veronika Didusenko of the title and crown, after she revealed that she was divorced and had a child. The event led to a campaign that aimed to change the rules of the four most important beauty pageants in the world, including Miss Universe.
"I believe women should have the freedom to choose to do whatever they want in life regardless of their marital status, age, ethnicity and sexuality," she said in a message on Instagram.
In 2022, transgender woman Anne Jakrajutatip bought Miss Universe through her company JKN Global Group and this year the Miss Universe Organization changed some of its rules. In the 72nd edition of Miss Universe, which took place last month, two transgender women participated for the first time and Michelle Cohn, representing Guatemala, became the first married woman with children to participate in Miss Universe.