Erin O’Flaherty made history when she became the first openly gay to win the Miss Missouri contest. As the pageant queen moves on to this year’s Miss America competition in September, she will stand as the contest’s first openly lesbian contestant.
Reportedly, 23-year-old O’Flaherty declared her sexual orientation since she was 18 as openly gay throughout her pageant career.
After winning the Miss Missouri competition in Mexico, Missouri, Ann Jolly, chairman of the board of the Miss Missouri Scholarship Organization, reportedly confirmed that O’Flaherty is the first LGBT contestant to win the title.
“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,” she told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
Erin, who’s originally from South Carolina is a graduate from the University of Central Florida and owns Rachel’s Grove, a clothing boutique in Chesterfield. She will compete for the Miss America title in Atlantic City, New Jersey in September this year.
The new Miss Missouri, whose pageant platform is suicide prevention hopes to forward the cause of the LGBT community throughout her time as the Miss America contestant, but added that it won’t be the sole focus of her stardom.
Daily Mail quoted O’Flaherty saying, “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.”
Reportedly, Erin had exceptional reasons to be anxious. She was apprehensive if being openly gay would hurt her chances.
According to the Huffington Post, it was hard for O’Flaherty to come out public about her sexual leanings because she wanted to protect her relationship and had to come to terms with herself before the rest of the world got a chance to know who she was.
After winning the crown, she signed in to her official Miss Missouri Twitter account for the first time.
The entry of Erin O’Flaherty’s as a lesbian in the Miss America Pageant is a defining moment in the franchise’s 95-year history. She hopes that winning Miss Missouri and aiming for the Miss America pageant sends a message to other LGBT aspirants who hope to compete for the beauty contest someday.
In 2012, Mollie Thomas tried her luck to become the first openly gay Miss California, and in 2013 Analouisa Valencia contested for the beauty pageant for South Carolina. Neither of them won the respective contest.
While this could be the first time an openly gay woman is hoping for a title in the Miss America contest, other beauty pageants around the world already count on celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, including Miss gay Venezuela and Miss Trans Israel.
Erin O’Flaherty’s winning the Miss Missouri title reportedly points out more than a conquest of beauty and talent. According to Women’s Voices for Change, “It was a high-heeled step in the right direction for diversity, because O’Flaherty is the first openly gay woman to win the state pageant.”
While beauty pageants often talk of grand plans to bring meaningful change in the world, time will tell whether Erin’s stand as a gay beauty contestant would help America break stereotypes about gay women as less feminine.
Erin hopes that she can strike a really nice balance of staying true to the values of Miss Missouri and also manage to communicate her personal views as a gay contestant in the Miss America contest.
While, officials of the Miss America Pageant are yet to comment on her win, Erin O’Flaherty’s is on her way to the 96th annual Miss America pageant September. Can she win the Miss America crown in September?
[Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]