The beauty world continues to evolve as Lehlogonolo Machaba becomes the first trans woman to make it in the top 30 for the upcoming Miss South Africa pageant.

The news follows Sports Illustrated’s 2021 Swimsuit Issue making Leyna Bloom its first trans woman cover star. 

As a semi-finalist, Machaba ushers a new era of achievement and visibility for the LGBTQ+ community in Africa. At only 24-years-old, she will join 30 other contestants to vie for the coveted title of Miss South Africa. Allowing transgender women to compete since 2019, women who choose to apply for the event do not have to disclose their identity. But for Machaba, a native of an inland area known as North West, which borders Botswana, sharing the news via her Instagram page was a proud and history-changing moment.

“This journey has been nothing but a great one and all of you have made this worthwhile,” the caption on her post read. “I will continue to push for change and acceptance of everyone in the LGBTQI+ community and being the first EVER TransWoman in the competition I can declare that by the grace of God, TOP 15 here we come.”

In an interview with Times Live, Machaba explained how her work and advocacy is a statement for “dark-skinned, transgender women.” “My mere existence in society is threatening and there’s a lot of closet[ed] transgender women who are afraid to come out in fear of receiving hate and even worse, being killed,” she said. “By doing this I am helping all those women to know that there’s still hope and the world is changing for good, slowly but surely.”

On the onset that the 24-year-old wins the Miss South Africa pageant competition, she shared that she would “fight even harder to get the Hate Crimes Bill passed.” 

The 2021 Miss South Africa Pageant finale will take place this coming October.