MISS MISSOURI 2016, ERIN O’FLAHERTY, HAS MADE HISTORY AS THE FIRST OPENLY GAY MISS AMERICA CONTESTANT.
Erin O’Flaherty was crowned Miss Missouri on June 18th, 2016. She was the first openly gay contestant to win a state beauty pageant. She will be the first out contestant ever in the Miss America pageant in 2017. When asked about her historical win, O’Flaherty said, "I'm on cloud nine, really, just to be Miss Missouri. I don't know that I intended to be the first, but I am. So I'm very excited about it."
O’Flaherty was the first openly gay contestant to have made it into the running for Miss America, but not the first to try.
In the Miss South Carolina 2013 pageant, Analouisa Valencia was the first openly gay contestant in that state. Valencia told The Advocate in 2013 that she hoped to be, “An advocate for equality for everyone…If I can’t be that role model and be positive and comfortable in what I have to say then I shouldn’t have it as my platform.”
In the Miss California 2012 pageant, there were two openly gay contestants, Jenelle Hutcherson, and Mollie Thomas.
Hutcherson used the competition as a place to advocate for the LGBT community. She said, "We have the power to create a better future for our kids by setting an example of treating each other with love and equality.”
Thomas used her place in the LGBT community to inspire others, and she explained, "I'm running for equality and will use this in order to promote visibility on current issues, to become a youth advocate and a role model."
In an interview with the Associated Press, O’Flaherty revealed she came out at age 18 and competed openly. O’Flaherty stated plans to advocate for the LGBT community during the Miss America pageant, but that would not be her sole focus. Suicide prevention would be her main platform in the contest. O’Flaherty said, "My focus of my year isn't going to be that I'm gay. It's certainly a big part of who I am, and I will be promoting it and raising awareness for the LGBT community. But, also there will be many appearances that I do that have nothing to do with that. I'm hoping that I can strike a really nice balance of staying true to the values of Miss Missouri and also being able to exercise my personal views." If she is to take home the title at Miss America 2017, she will be the recipient of a $50,000 award scholarship. On top of her new status as Miss Missouri, O’Flaherty is the co-owner of a boutique clothing store in St. Louis, called Rachel’s Grove.
On June 23rd, O’Flaherty signed onto the official Miss Missouri Twitter account and tweeted, “Hey there! Erin here, officially signing in as Miss MO 2016. So excited to serve this amazing state.”
You can read O’Flaherty's original interview with the Associated Press here.
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