TransNation Festival drew over 2,500 people as it launched its inaugural event on October 20th.  The multi-event celebration spanned four days between October 20th-23th, and presented the best in transgender art, film, beauty, and culture.  Thanks to the strong show of support and enthusiasm by trans allies and advocates, TransNation Festival’s anchor events – the Film Festival and Queen USA Beauty Pageant – were well received and a tremendous success!
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Guests packed the historic Theatre at The Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles for the Queen USA pageant. An enthusiastic audience cheered for the 36 contestants, who proudly strutted in front of a panel of celebrity judges (Caitlyn Jenner Kelly Osbourne, Geena Rocero, Angelica Ross, Betty Cantrell, Nicole Murray Ramirez, Michaela Mendelsohn, Alexandra Billings, iO Tillet Wright, Gia Coppola, Nikki Calabrese, David Clark, Flawless Sabrina, Bamby Salcedo & Ashley O’Dell). Contestants from states across the U.S. vied for the title of Queen USA, which was awarded to Miss California, Kataluna Enriquez. Television actress and trans activist Candis Cayne and BuzzFeed producer Curly Velasquez emceed the event.

One of the largest transgender civil rights events in U.S. history, TransNation Festival brought together the transgender community and its allies to affirm the lives, talents and human rights of trans people and raise money for St. John’s Well Child and Family Center’s cutting-edge transgender health program. The three-day film festival, guest curated by Amazon’s Transparent series producer Zackary Drucker included Q&A discussions with directors, actors and producers of groundbreaking trans-created and trans-themed films at Cinefamily Cinematheque in West Hollywood.

Founded in 2001 and produced by Karina Samala of the Imperial Court of Los Angeles and Hollywood, The Queen USA Pageant is an annual pageant for the transgender community, bringing together some of the most beautiful and talented transgender individuals in the country.

The Queen USA pageant showcases the beauty, diversity, talent, and intelligence of the transgender community and serves as a platform for the greater TLGBQ community, allies, and the mainstream community to join together to understand the real challenges that transgender individuals face, and celebrate the triumphs and victories of this strong community.

From its grassroots beginnings, the pageant has provided candidates with many benefits, including serving to boost confidence, self-esteem and self-worth, and encouraging community. Transgender persons are oftentimes rejected, marginalized, and alienated in our society. A recent study concluded that a staggering 41% of transgender people attempted suicide in their life. Queen USA pageant honors the beauty of transgender individuals, while highlighting the worth and dignity of trans experiences. Many previous contestants and winners have gone on to pursue careers in art, entertainment, business, healthcare, and law.

A beloved community mainstay in West Hollywood for over 15 years, in 2016 the Queen USA Pageant went national, with 35 semi-finalists culled from applicants from all 50 states.

KARINA SAMALA is the longtime producer of the Queen USA and Queen of the Universe transgender beauty pageants. A graduate of M.I.T. Philippines with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemical Engineering, Ms. Samala worked as a Senior Process Engineer for Northrop- Grumman Corporation, for several years.

Ms.Samala has competed in and won numerous transgender beauty pageants, with titles including “Queen of the Universe” 1991, “Miss Gay World” 1995 and “Miss California Continental” 1990. In addition to her involvement in these TLGB events, Ms. Samala has been active in several TLGBQ advocacy groups and philanthropic organizations for over twenty years.

Ms. Samala is currently the chairperson for the City of Los Angeles’ Human Relations Commission’s Transgender Advisory Council and the President of the Board of Directors of the Imperial Court of Los Angeles and Hollywood. She is also a member of the City of West Hollywood Transgender Advisory Board, the Christopher Street West/LA Pride Board, the County of Los Angeles Sheriff’s TLGB Advisory Council, the Community Police Advisory Board – LAPD Jail Division, and the Asian Pacific Islander Pride Council.

For her extensive and continued work in the community, Ms. Samala has been presented numerous awards. She received “Lifetime Achievement” and “Stonewall 40 Trans-Heroes” awards from the International Court Council; the “Keeper of the Dream” Award and “Rainbow Key” Award from the City of West Hollywood; the KCET- TV “Local Heroes Award, and the “Spirit of Los Angeles” Awarded by the City of Los Angeles.

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