Lesbian beauty queen Erin O’Flaherty becomes Miss Missouri and makes Miss America history by being the first openly gay contestant in the pageant’s 95-year history.
O’Flaherty, 23, who is originally from South Carolina, came out as gay when she was 18, but said she isn’t making her sexuality the centre of her campaign for Miss America when she attends the competition in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on September 11.
In an interview with the Associated Press, she 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 sent her first official tweet from the Miss Missouri Twitter account on Wednesday, writing, “Hey there! Erin here, officially signing in as Miss MO 2016. So excited to serve this amazing state.”
The clothing store owner, whose pageant platform is suicide prevention, also told the AP that she hopes to reach out to the LGBT community during her time as Miss Missouri, but added that it won’t be the only focus of her reign.
“My focus of my year isn’t going to be that I’m gay,” O’Flaherty explained. “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.”