Missouri has crowned its first openly gay pageant contestant, 23-year-old Erin O’Flaherty.
On Saturday, O’Flaherty won the Miss Missouri competition in Mexico, Missouri, making her the pageant’s first-ever openly gay winner. The next stop for O’Flaherty is the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City on September 11.
O’Flaherty said Wednesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that she came out as gay when she was 18, competed openly and knew going into the Miss Missouri pageant that she’d be making history if she won.
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A South Carolina native who runs a clothing store, O’Flaherty says she had doubts about how she’d be received in the pageant world. She may also be the first openly gay Miss America contestant.
“Progressive is not exactly a word people might think of when you think Missouri,” O’Flaherty told the Riverfront Times. (Or, for that matter, Miss America.) “I didn’t choose to be the first; I just am. Often you hear that our politics don’t always match our people and I think that’s really true.”
O’Flaherty also told the Associated Press, “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.”
Image screengrab via ET