Dani St James may look every inch the beauty queen, but unlike her fellow contestants, Dani was born a boy.
The 21-year-old was born Daniel St James, and, over the past three years, has been making the transition to become a woman.
Now Dani, who has been taking female hormones and dressing as a woman since she was 18 is competing to be crowned Miss Diamond Queen 2013.
Dani St James, left, was born Daniel, right, and began her full transition to become a women three years ago
Dani, from Barry, South Wales, is now competing alongside 11 other contestants in the beauty pageant which takes place in London on Saturday.
For just three years ago, Dani was a man called Daniel, it wasn’t until she was 18 that she made the decision to leave her life as a man behind and embrace life as a woman.
But Dani, a manager at a nightclub in Camden, admits that while she didn’t leave her male life behind until she was 18, the transition from man to woman began at an early age.
Dani, who has already been crowned Miss Tourmaline (right), hopes to be crowned Miss Diamond Queen 2013, and to inspire others who are transgender to express themselves freely
She said: ‘For me the transition to a woman was a gradual process, I grew up playing with girls’ toys, I started wearing make-up when I was 11 and I told my parents I was gay when I had my first boyfriend aged 12.
‘When I was three, my mum brought me a pram, I’d always liked girls’ toys and I was never interested in sport, Action Man or anything like that, it never seemed natural to me.
‘I think the first time I realised I was different from other boys was when I was around eight years old.
‘I’d been invited to a boy’s birthday party and all the other boys at the party spent the afternoon playing football in the garden together, while I stayed inside and played with his dog. I hated it.
‘There was always a part of me that knew I was different to other boys my age but it was never an issue.
‘I never felt like I was trapped because my family were very accepting, I had the freedom to be myself.
‘When I was 16 I left school and became a make-up artist, where I started experimenting more with make-up, I gradually wore more and more until I no longer left the house without it.
‘Around 17 I started growing my hair, had hair extensions and began dressing like a woman.
‘But even though I wore women’s clothes and make-up everyday I still identified myself as a man.
Left, Dani says growing up as a boy she was never interested in toys aimed at men. Right, as a teenager Dani began dressing as a girl
‘When I was 18 I moved to Ibiza where I lived until January this year. It was then, when I was 18, I just realised I was no longer wearing make-up, growing my hair or dressing like a female for any other reason than I felt more comfortable that way.’
Dani visited a doctor in Ibiza who prescribed her with female hormones, she changed her name from Daniel to Dani, began her life as a woman and hasn’t looked back since.
Unlike many people diagnosed as transgender, Dani said she didn’t face the same gender struggle, she didn’t feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body as she was never forced to identify with one gender.
Dani was encouraged by her mother Sue to act and do whatever made her happy regardless of whether her behaviour was considered characteristically male or female.
And Dani said it was the support of her family which enabled her to be confident in her her own skin.
‘Becoming a woman has never been an issue as my family have always been extremely supportive.
‘I never had any drama surrounding my gender, I was accepted for who I was and I never felt as though I was trapped because I was always free to dress and act as I pleased.
‘I was never bullied for wearing make-up probably because I was confident and happy in my own skin.
‘I told my mum that I was taking female hormones when I was 18 and it wasn’t a big deal because I’d already been wearing make-up and dressing like a female, hormones were the next natural step.
‘I keep a photo of myself as Daniel in my purse, it makes me feel proud to see how far I’ve come.
Dani says it was the support of her family which enabled her to be confident in her her own skin
‘At the moment I’m focusing on laser hair removal. There are lots of ways I could enhance my appearance as a woman but at the moment I’m happy with the way I look.
‘I don’t hide the fact I’m transgender but I’d prefer to be identified as a woman, I take offence if people notice.
‘I’m lucky that I have quite feminine features, so most people never guess I’m transgender.
“There are many people who go through with the sex change and I’d never say never but I can’t see it in my future. I don’t feel like I need to have it to be myself.’
Dani said taking part in the beauty pageant was not only a big step for her but an opportunity to inspire others.
Read more: Daily Mail
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