Local Hero: Karina Samala

Karina Samala

"Transgenders are extremely misunderstood and discriminated against. I am committed to giving greater visibility and voice to my transgender brothers and sisters."

Karina Samala is currently the producer of the Queen USA and Queen of the Universe Transgender Beauty Pageants. As an active member of the LGBT community for over twenty-five years, Ms. Samala has been actively involved in campaigning for the equality and human rights that should be afforded to transgendered individuals. Ms. Samala was born in Manila, Philippines. She is a graduate of M.I.T. Philippines with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemical Engineering. For several years, Ms. Samala worked as a Senior Process Engineer for Northrop-Grumman Corporation. Over the years, Ms. Samala has competed in and won numerous transgender beauty pageants. Her titles include "Queen of the Universe" 1991, "Miss Gay Universe" 1995, and "Miss California Continental" 1990.

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In addition to her involvement in these LGBT events, Ms. Samala has been supremely active in LGBT advocacy groups and philanthropic organizations for twenty years. She is the president of the Board of Directors of the Imperial Court of Los Angeles & Hollywood, which has organized fundraising efforts for the following: Christ Chapel AIDS Food Bank of Long Beach, St. John's Food Cup Board and Well Child Center, and "Fashion for a Cause" for the K6G Smart Program at the Twin Towers Men's County Jail of Los Angeles. She also assisted in the establishing effort for the "The Nicole Murray Ramirez Scholarship Fund", which offers yearly scholarships to various educational institutions without partiality to ethnicity, sexual preference or lifestyle.

Ms. Samala is also the chair of the City of Los Angeles Human Services Commission Transgender Working Group. In her capacity as chair, Ms. Samala has coordinated with the Los Angeles Police Department on a committee that formulated and distributed a survey questionnaire on the transgender community and LAPD interactions in the city of Los Angeles. The results of this survey directly contributed to the creation of a "Recommended Model Policies and Standards" for the LAPD's interactions with transgender individuals. In addition to her duties on this commission, Ms. Samala also served on the Asian Pacific Islander Pride Council for four years and served as the Volunteers Committee chair for the Christopher Street West region of Los Angeles Gay Pride. Ms. Samala also chairs the Transgender Advisory Board of West Hollywood; she was instrumental in re-designating the organization from "transgender task force" to "transgender advisory board", which is the first of its kind in the world.

For her extensive and continued work in the community, Ms. Samala has been awarded a number of awards. In 2006, she received the "Transgender Trailblazer Award" from the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center. She also received the "Lifetime Achievement" and "Stonewall 40 Trans-Heroes" awards from the International Court Council in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Most recently, Ms. Samala was honored with the "Keeper of the Dream" Award from the City of West Hollywood earlier this year.

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