Israeli reality television produced some off-screen drama when the country’s first-ever transgender beauty queen reconciled with her estranged father.
Talleen Abu Hanna, an Arab Christian from Nazareth, reunited on the set of a reality show with father Anan, who had cut off relations following her gender reassignment surgery. Abu Hanna won Israel’s first-ever transgender beauty contest in 2016 and launched a modeling and acting career that has turned her into a local sensation.
“I still haven’t digested it,” the TV star said. “I’m so excited and happy that it happened. I’m in shock that he agreed to be photographed, to recognize me in front of the whole country in a reality show as his daughter, and to speak to me in the female pronoun.”
The reunification occurred during the filming the eighth season of “Goal Stars,” an Israeli cable TV docu-reality show that pits a soccer team of celebrities against other celebrity teams and follows the players through the ups and downs of training, playing and socializing.
After winning Miss Trans Israel in 2016 and being first runner-up at the international pageant held that year in Barcelona, Abu Hanna quickly rose to fame in Israel, where she is often mobbed by fans eager to take selfies.
In addition to modeling, she speaks to transgender youth at shelters in Tel Aviv. In June 2017 she was the keynote speaker when the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC, marked LGBT Pride Month with a reception for Jewish and Israeli activists and leaders, describing the importance of the support she received from the country, which enabled her transition.
She said she was humbled to be “an ambassador for peace between one’s soul [and] one’s body.”
Abu Hanna has also appeared as a contestant on the Israeli version of the reality television show “Big Brother.”
As a boy growing up in Nazareth, Abu Hanna grappled with an intense internal conflict between “body and soul,” she said. When she showed an interest in women’s clothes and makeup, her father lashed out at her.
Abu Hanna moved to Tel Aviv, where the LGBT community is known to be strong and welcoming. As well, Israel’s universal health service covers the costs of sex-reassignment surgery.
For the past four years she tried to reconcile with her father, who refused to accept her new identity.
קשה שלא להתרגש. אחרי למעלה מ-4 שנים של נתק תאלין אבו חנא ואביה מתאחדים ❤️???????? שבוע מבורך ומוצלח לכולם
“I once told my mother I wanted to come in, but my father told my mother that it was either me or him — if I went in then he was leaving,” Abu Hanna said.
The reconciliation was apparently brokered “behind the scenes” without the reality star’s knowledge, Ynet reported.