BANGKOK (Reuters) – A Thai celebrity media tycoon, transgender rights advocate and new owner of the Miss Universe beauty pageant wants to use the event to inspire women like her and boost tourism.
Jakapong “Anne” Jakrajutatip, CEO and biggest shareholder of JKN Global Group Pcl (JKN), is a celebrity in Thailand, starring in local versions of reality shows Project Runway and Shark Tank.
She bought the Miss Universe Organisation on Wednesday for $20 million, marking the first time the beauty pageant organiser has been owned by a woman, her company said.
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The acquisition fits into JKN’s ecosystem and gives her a platform to inspire others, she told Reuters.
“It’s a universal platform… I can become the aspiration for so many people, in particular women, LGBTQ, so they can transform,” she said in English.
Jakapong has been outspoken about her experience as a transgender woman and also set up the Life Inspired For Thailand Foundation to advocate for the rights to dignity and opportunities for transgender people.
She has also spoken out about her struggles with bullying and sexual harassment growing up.
“I learned to get through pain, therefore I prepared myself to be ready all the time… I turned pain into power.”
She said Miss Universe can promote Thailand’s Five F-factors tourism campaign, boosting fighting (Thai boxing), film, festival, fashion and food.
“It’s almost one billion people watching and owned by a Thai transwoman, one hundred percent,” Jakapong said. “We have the best vehicle now and so why don’t you just use me?”
Tourism is a crucial driver of the Thai economy and in pre-pandemic 2019 the country welcomed nearly 40 million arrivals who spent 1.91 trillion baht ($50.58 billion).
The government expects to see just over 10 million visitors this year and double that in 2023.
“Every country – not just Thailand – will get tourism income when you are the (pageant) host country,” Jakapong said.
She hopes Thailand will be the host every three to four years.
Other plans for Miss Universe include licensing and merchandising opportunities, including integration with JKN’s own businesses like fashion, beverages and cosmetics.
Ventures like restaurants, property, spas and hotels were also being explored, she said.