(NEW YORK) — Jenna Talackova, the transgender woman who was temporarily disqualified from a Canadian beauty pageant, said that even as a child she knew she was “in the wrong body.”
“As soon as I was conscious, I just always knew that I was not what they were saying. It wasn’t right,” Talackova told ABC News’ Barbara Walters in an exclusive interview. “I thought that I was in the wrong body.”
Talackova went from local beauty queen to a headline-grabbing transgender rights activist in the span of just a few weeks after the Ms. Universe Canada pageant informed her that she would be disqualified from the competition because she was not a “naturally born female.”
Representatives for Donald Trump, whose company owns the Ms. Universe pageants, said earlier this week that he would reverse the decision to disqualify Talackova and that she would be allowed to compete in the pageant.
Shortly thereafter, Talackova’s lawyer, Gloria Allred, criticized Trump for having the “natural born female” rule at all.
The Trump organization later released a statement saying that pageant rules had “been modernized to ensure this type of issue does not occur again.”
Talackova, who was born with the name Walter Talackova, had gender reassignment surgery at the age of 19 and also had hormone treatments. She called the surgery “intense” but ultimately “rewarding.”
“It was terribly painful, but seeing something on your body for that long and not being able to look at myself in the mirror because I couldn’t stand seeing the other part, it was actually very rewarding, too,” she said.
Talackova said she’s now committed to helping others.
“I feel like the universe, the creator just put me in this position as an advocate,” she said. “And now it’s like this, and I’ll take that position. If it’s helping anybody else, my story and my actions, then I feel great about it.”
Watch Barbara Walters’ exclusive interview with Talackova and her mother, Myrtle Perry, Friday night on 20/20 at 10 p.m. ET.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN