Chelle Lhuillier is first transgender to ride Independence Day Parade float

A believer in 'beauty with a purpose'

A believer in ‘beauty with a purpose’

By Elton Lugay

There was no press announcement from the Philippine Independence Day Council Inc. (PIDCI), but trust Chelle Lhuillier to take this groundbreaking first and make it known to all that she, a transgender woman, will be the first to grace a float at the Independence Day parade on Madison Avenue, touted as the biggest parade outside of the Philippines.

“Am I dreaming ? Is this for real? I still can’t believe I’m one of the beauty queens on a float at the (June 1) Philippine Independence Day parade on Madison Avenue in Manhattan… Thank You Lord for making this happen! Mabuhay ang PIDCI!” wrote Chelle on her Facebook wall.

While some in the community received the news with a typical ‘good-for-her’ shrug, Chelle’s friends in the transgender community gave their one-word shout-out: “Bongga!”

Understandably, Chelle feels celebratory about her upcoming Madison Avenue Moment and could not contain her excitement, sharing with friends little bits of details about her float ($2.5K), her Leonard Co gown ($1.5K), her giddy-as-a-girl joy.

“I never in a million years thought I would become a transgender woman and will get to represent the T community in a parade,” Chelle, a health care worker, confessed to The FilAm.

A former middle school Science teacher in Manhattan, Chelle said she became a transgender “by accident.” As she was known to cross-dress, her gay friends urged her why not go all the way. “I’ve enjoyed the attention I was getting, and I thought ‘why not’?”

Former school teacher Chelle Lhuillier

Former school teacher Chelle Lhuillier

She remembered the year she embraced her transgender persona. It was 2009 and it felt liberating, she said, to be able to express one’s true calling when she came out.

Chelle has since participated in beauty pageants and ballroom dancing competitions in New York. It’s not all frivolity, she paused. She sits on the Board of two nonprofit organizations — the Lions Club International Elmhurst Queen of Hearts Chapter and the Founder of Liberty Scholarship Foundation Inc.

She also made contributions to the Home for the Golden Gays in Manila for elderly gays as well as financed candidates for the Ladlad Partylist campaign in the Philippine elections, her way of coming all out for LGBT empowerment.

“All that gay people, including trans women, want is to gain acceptance in the society and to be treated equally just like any other person,” said Chelle, a native of Marinduque.

Chelle has a degree in Biology from Far Eastern University and some Master in Education credits from Philippine Normal University. She taught Biology at O.B. Montessori in Greenhills before coming to the U.S. in 2003.

In New York, she worked initially as a public school teacher. It turned out to be a short-lived career. After three years, she quit, unable to handle the demands and the politics that go with the job. “I was very stressed both in the classroom dealing with my students and in the Board of Education where I could no longer take their politics.”

She is currently working in the health care industry, where she gets to set her hours and finds time for her ever booked-solid social calendar.

“I have always been an advocate of ‘Beauty with a Purpose,’” she said.

Reached for comment, Consul General Mario de Leon said everyone is welcome to join the Independence Day Parade.

“Filipinos are an inclusive community. Anyone who is proud to be identified with the Philippines — it does not matter which region they are from, what religion they practice, or what sexual orientation they embrace – are welcome to join the parade and participate in the celebration of our country’s independence,” he said.

This year’s parade on June 1 will be attended by beauty queens and celebrities, led by First Filipina Miss World Megan Young, Black Eyed Peas’, first Filipina Carnival Queen in Brazil Bessie Badilla, first Filipina American boxer Ana Julaton, and Original Philippine Music artist Kuh Ledesma.

The parade and street fair are expected to draw hundreds of thousands of Filipino Americans from the New York Tri-State with hundreds of organizations marching or parading in brightly colored floats and open cars.

The Fire Department City of New York’s Phoenix Society members are joining the parade for the first time. CBS 2 reporter Hazel Sanchez and comedian Jojo Mabolo will serve as master of ceremonies.


  1. M wrote:

    Cool choice to do it. I support her 100% for wanting to do it.

  2. Ramon C.Busa wrote:

    Hello Chelle,

    My name is Ramon C. Busa and I coordinate the activities of Home for the Golden Gays,Inc. here in Pasay City.

    Your grandmas send their best wishes to you.

    Please stay healthy and lovely always.

    God Bless!

    Mon Busa – CP # 09476930516

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