PATTAYA: Resplendent in a figure-hugging grey and black dress, Sorrawee Nattee wept tears of joy after being crowned Thailand's most beautiful transsexual at a unique pageant.
Sorrawee took the top prize at Miss Tiffany's Universe 2009 in the beach resort of Pattaya, beating off 29 other transsexuals and receiving a small Honda car, and 100,000 baht ($2,860) in cash on Friday night.
"I'm very excited," the 20-year-old from Thailand's southern Songkhla province said, touching the glimmering winner's crown with disbelieving fingers.
She appeared overwhelmed by hordes of photographers, camera crews and well-wishers, the scene played out before a live television audience of 15 million people.
In a nation obsessed with beauty pageants and famous for its sexual tolerance, this elaborate contest is taken every bit as seriously as the more traditional competitions.
The pageant had categories for Best Costume, Miss Photogenic and even Miss Unlimited Sexy Star. Dresses ranged from flowing white ensembles to shimmering red numbers and pink miniskirts. High heels were a must.
All contestants were born men, and organizers said they hoped to raise public awareness of transgendered issues.
When asked to name her hero, winner Sorrawee earned loud applause by naming her mother and father.
"She had smart answers and is very beautiful," Marut Sarowat, a television and stage director who was one of the judges, said of Sorrawee.