Instagram (@lehlogonolo.machaba)

Lehlogonolo Machaba has made history as the first trans woman to rank in the Miss South Africa beauty pageant and make it the top 30.

The North West beauty semi-finalist has ushered in a new era of achievement and visibility for the LGBTQ+ community.

24-year-old Lehlogonolo Machaba was recently announced as part of 30 contestants who have been picked to move ahead to compete for the coveted title of Miss South Africa.

The renowned beauty pageant has allowed transgender women to compete since 2019. Women who choose to apply for the event do not have to disclose their trans identity.

Machaba shared the news of making it to the top 30 on Instagram: “I am proud to announce that I have OFFICIALLY made it to the #Top30 of #MissSA2021 thanks to all of you. This journey has been nothing but a great one and all of you have made this worthwhile.

“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.”

The semi-finalist has long used her platform to spotlight LGBTQ+ issues and rights. In an interview with Times Live, Machaba explained how her work and advocacy is a statement for “dark-skinned, transgender woman”.

“My mere existence in society is threatening and there’s a lot of closet 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.”

The 24-year-old added what she would do if she won. “Having recently lost a very close friend from a tragic incident that is believed to be a homophobic attack, it makes me fight even harder to get the Hate Crimes Bill passed,” she said.

At the end of Pride Month, Machaba shared a message of support and solidarity with the community.

“Today is the last day of international pride month. On this day I’d like to urge all my queer brothers, sisters and non-binary folks to remember that regardless of what society says, we’re still a force to be reckoned with,” she wrote.

“I believe that there’ll be a time when we can all live free regardless of what you identify as or who you love. Keep going and always stay true to yourself. I love you all and never give up hope. Happy pride.”