Missouri has crowned its first-ever openly lesbian Miss Missouri who will go on to represent the state in the Miss America Pageant. Erin O’Flaherty took the title in Mexico, Missouri this weekend and told the AP of her win: “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.”
The 23-year-old said that she came out when she was 18, and hopes that she can inspire other young adults to be true to themselves and also to raise more awareness concerning youth suicide prevention.
“My focus of my year isn’t going to be that I’m gay,” said O’Flaherty, who owns a clothing store in suburban St. Louis. “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. And so 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.”
She will be the first openly lesbian to compete for the title of Miss America in Atlantic City later this year.