When Julie Vu was young, she watched in awe as the women on the television screen graced the stage in pageants. She never thought she could be one of them.

“I wanted to be beautiful. I wanted to be a woman. To see these role models and these beautiful women on the stage, it meant so much to me,” Vu told CTV News.

About seven years ago, Vu began her journey from John to Julie, undergoing hormone replacement therapy and sex reassignment surgery.

“I just never thought that I’d be able to transition and to be in the body that I am in today.”

She has been transparent about her sex change, documenting it on YouTube and sharing her story to millions.

Now she will have the opportunity to reach another audience as she competes for the title of Miss International Queen in Thailand, which has been described as the equivalent of Miss Universe for the transgender community.

“Having this platform would mean so much to me. I could reach out to more people, educate people about transgender issues and I just want to talk about transgender equality,” she said.

She said she’s faced a barrage of hateful comments online and in person. Competing in Miss International Queen will show those who have doubted her that she is an ambitious woman who can reach her goals, she said.

Second Canadian to compete 

The pageant started in 2004 and in its 15-year history, only one other Canadian has competed.

Vu said Jenna Talackova, who first competed in Miss International Queen in 2010, was her role model.

“I wanted to follow in her footsteps,” she said.

Talackova made headlines around the world when she fought to be included in the Miss Universe Canada pageant in 2012.

She initially earned a coveted spot, but was later removed because the rules stated she needed to be a naturally born woman.

The pageant later changed its tune and she was allowed to compete. She made it to the top 12 but was not in the final five.

Vu said since that time, there have been no other Canadian contestants in Miss International Queen.

She hopes to become the first Canadian to win the pageant.

“I want to put Canada on the map and show everyone how diverse, multicultural and how accepting we are,” she said. “Canada is very accepting  but there are still people who are closed-minded.”

And that’s where she hopes to use her platform to educate people about the transgender community.

Miss International Queen takes place in Pattaya on March 8.