Published in Eastern Visayas Journal on June 6, 2021
Kim Cordeta Hudec has achieved a rare kind of success in the glamorous and competitive world of pageantry in the United States of America. She is the only beauty queen to date to win three major titles in one year: Miss LA Pride, Miss Queen USA, and Miss Queen Universe in 2014. Watching her competition videos, it was easy to see how her stage presence, intelligence, and beauty captivated the judges and audiences to become the ideal in the international transgender community. success did not come easy. In a 2016 interview for This is Life with Lisa Ling, Kim admitted that she always dreamed to be a beauty queen for as far as she can remember. Born as Mark Eric Cordeta, Kim struggled with internal conflict and meeting the expectations of her conservative family. “In Tacloban, I wasn’t really that open. My grandfather was a general, my uncle was a priest,” she shared.
Her mother would take her to Tismo Mart where Kim chose Care Bears and stationery as her reward for earning top honors at school. “I was always like this even at six years old. They knew I was different and they always called my attention. I felt like I was scolded,” she continued. “My mom knew already and tolerated it.” Still, the expectations built a formidable impression in her young mind that she did not want her family to be embarrassed. She resolved to make them proud by doing well at school and in whatever she did in life.
She also began to live a double life. “I was pretending at school. Our neighbors knew I was different but at school they knew me as a normal person.” She was an academic achiever and a popular figure in school politics. She gained lots of friends, but she mostly hung out with females. “They would always ask me if I am gay, but I never admitted,” Kim recalled. She was active in barangay politics as the SK chairman of PHHC mountainside.
At 16, Kim was the youngest ballroom dance instructor at Leyte Park Hotel. With her mom’s blessing as the hotel manager, she maintained a grueling schedule by working every night from 7 p.m. – 2 a.m. and being at school by 7 a.m. The pay was great that she was tempted to stop studying Nursing and switching to Computer Science to have a more stable school schedule and earn more money.
Her mom stopped her. According to Kim, “My mom said no. Finish Nursing first and then I can dance as much as I want.” Kim listened to her mom and graduated as one of two awardees for academic excellence. The mothers of her fellow graduates were her ballroom dancing clients. They were surprised that she was studying all this time while working.
She began to be more comfortable with herself while in college surrounded by her friends, but it was still different with her family. “I was formal and I did not joke around with my family. I hung out with my friends but would hide when I saw my mother’s and uncle’s friends.” In retrospect, Kim was ashamed that she was associating with these kinds of friends without realizing that this was who she was.
Kim moved to the US in 2001 where she took and passed the nursing board exams. She also met new friends and came to a self-realization. People were open about things. She finally felt free and started transitioning in 2003. “At first, I did not know how it worked here. All I knew was that deep inside me, this was me.” Colleagues at the hospital began noticing her transition process. and made rude comments like “Oh, ano ang ipinagawa mo? Bakit ang ganda mo?”
She started feeling harassed with all the insensitive questions until finally her manager advised her to inform the management formally of the process she was going through. The hospital supported her, and gender sensitivity training is now an annual requirement for employees.
Throughout the whole process, her parents gave her their full support. Her father was concerned about her safety. According to Kim, “My mother said, naku, I knew even then. You don’t even have to explain. You have a good heart. You are helpful and stable. What else? You just have to be strong. People might not accept you.”
Yet she did find acceptance, and love. She met Czech-born Marco Hudec and they were married in 2013. Marco is a fitness model, personal trainer, and competitive body builder. He also reignited Kim’s childhood dream to be a beauty queen. She was invited to join Miss LA Pride but she was unsure about herself. Hollywood makeup artist and beauty queen maker Tuesday Drew took Kim under her wings, doing her hair and makeup and taking charge of the gowns.
Kim competed in 2014 and could not believe she won on her first try beating Latinas, Asians, and other white competitors. Other beauty pageant organizers came knocking on her door, inviting her to join other beauty pageants. Marco and her friends encouraged her to join Miss Queen USA, a bigger stage with more contestants and seasoned pageant participants coming from different states. She triumphed again.
With two wins in a row, it was inevitable that she was invited to join Miss Queen Universe, the most prestigious transgender beauty pageant in the United States. My mentor Tuesday said, “this is it!” Kim and Tuesday worked closely together to prepare for the pageant. “The Latinas were very intimidating. They really made the effort in the competitions.” Little did they know that her edge was in the critical question and answer portion. Kim won as Miss Queen Universe in 2014, claiming three titles and achieving grand slam status. When she won her third title, transgender beauty queens from around the world reached out and she was able to establish her network of connections and charity programs.
“I owe this to Tuesday. She was my mentor and she shared her expert guidance. I respected her decisions,” Kim said humbly. Marco also played a big part in her success. “He believed in me more than I believed in myself. He is my number one fan.” She was the USA representative to Miss International Queen 2016 in Thailand. She was an early favorite and her journey documented by no less than Lisa Ling for her CNN show. Miss Thailand won, but she was happy she gained so many friends and learned many valuable experiences.
Kim is finally comfortable in her own skin and has no more anxiety or stress. She continues to focus on her work as a registered nurse while exploring acting opportunities in Hollywood. She has not forgotten about the struggles she went through and aims to give back and support young people. She and Marco organize fundraisers and sponsor feeding programs for underprivileged children in Leyte and Samar.
She shared an important piece of advice for young people who are still trying to discover their true selves. “Self-discovery should be experienced without time constraints. Learn and let nature take its course. Enjoy the journey as it leads to one’s truth and happiness.”