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Donald Trump vs. Gloria Allred: Transgender beauty battle

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 6:06 AM EDT, Wed April 4, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "She should be allowed to enter the pageant," Miss Universe owner Donald Trump says
  • Contestant's lawyer: "We want this rule eliminated"
  • "I am a woman," contestant Jenna Talackova says
  • Officials previously disqualifed the transgender woman from Miss Canada Universe

Los Angeles (CNN) -- It was a public relations battle featuring two well-known masters of the media, a beauty queen, and a controversial question: Should someone born a man be allowed to compete in the Miss Universe pageant?

On the East Coast was Donald Trump, the New York business tycoon whose fortune and brand is boosted by his ability to navigate storms of controversy.

On the West Coast was Gloria Allred, a Beverly Hills lawyer legendary for her ability to draw hordes of cameras to her law office to capture her outrage over alleged injustices done to her clients.

The client is Jenna Talackova, a 23-year-old, 6-foot-1-inch blond Canadian, who underwent sexual reassignment surgery four years ago.

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Talackova won a regional beauty crown qualifying her for Canada's national title, but she was then told the Miss Canada Universe pageant in Toronto on May 19 was only open to "naturally born females."

"I am a woman," Talackova said in a prepared statement she read to reporters in Allred's conference room Tuesday. "I was devastated and I felt that excluding me for the reason that they gave was unjust."

Allred attacked Trump, who owns and controls the Miss Universe franchise, for questioning Talackova's sexuality.

"She did not ask Mr. Trump to prove that he is a naturally born man or to see photos of his birth to view his anatomy to prove that he was male," Allred said.

How she became a female is not important, she said.

"The Miss Universe competition is designed to find the one person in the world whose human qualities make them worthy of the Miss Universe crown and title," Allred said. "Jenna is beautiful in every way. Her life story will undoubtedly inspire people throughout the world."

Talackova, in a 2010 interview, said she knew she was a girl at age 4. She said she started hormone therapy at age 14 and underwent sexual reassignment surgery at 19.

Trump, warned of Allred's attack when the lawyer alerted reporters Monday afternoon that she would hold the news conference, shifted his pageant's position in an announcement Monday night.

Talackova could compete provided "she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions," the Miss Universe Organization said.

Trump's maneuver didn't appear to temper Allred's outrage.

"The last-minute statement by Mr. Trump's representative put out late yesterday only confuses the issue," she said. "Instead of stating clearly that Jenna will be allowed to compete, Mr. Trump qualifies it by adding conditions that are ambiguous."

She asked Trump for "a clear answer -- not a wimpy, wishy-washy type of answer -- but something that we can take to the bank."

Allred didn't know it then, but Trump gave a clearer statement to CNN in New York two hours earlier.

"We went by the laws of Canada and the laws of the United States, and those laws say that she should be allowed to enter the pageant," Trump said. "So she will be entering the Miss Canada pageant."

When read Trump's new statement, Allred paused for several seconds and said "I stand by my statement. We want this rule eliminated."

"We want a clearer statement that this rule will be eliminated," Allred said. "Step up, say it loudly, say it clearly, this rule will never be in effect again for anyone."

Allred declined to have Talackova react to Trump's decision to let her compete.

"Sorry," Talackova whispered to a reporter, apologizing for her silence.

Allred would not say if her client still intended to compete in the pageant.

Controversy over pageant rules is not new for Trump.

The media stir over Miss California Carrie Prejean's same-sex marriage comments at Trump's Miss USA pageant three years ago raised the profile of that competition.

Prejean, in response to a question from a judge, declared her opposition to same-sex marriage.

Trump initially said Prejean could keep her Miss California title despite a controversy over topless photos, missed appearances and her statements against same-sex marriage. He eventually fired her for "contract violations," including missed public appearances.

Allred has affected more than beauty contests. She hosted several news conferences in 2010 to reveal evidence that Meg Whitman, who was then the Republican nominee for governor of California, employed an undocumented worker.

The October surprise hampered Whitman's campaign at a crucial time in her race against Jerry Brown, who won the election.

CNN's Doug Hyde contributed to this report.

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