Miss America Pageant Had the First Openly Gay Contestant in History This Year
Erin O’Flaherty made history this year
She may not have brought home the 2016 Miss America crown, but after being crowned Miss Missouri last June Erin O’Flaherty made history this year as the first open lesbian to compete in the 95-year-old pageant.
Despite representing Missouri in the Miss America Pageant, O’Flaherty grew up in Florence, South Carolina, and went to University in Florida. Missouri, Florida, and South Carolina are all considered very conservative states, but when asked by Cosmopolitan magazine about any pressure she may have had to stay closeted while competing in the pageants, O’Flaherty replied with, “I'm not the kind of person who is going to give in to that pressure, but I actually haven't felt that much pressure. People have been very accepting so, as much as it might be scary for me to come into a conservative state and to be who I am, at the same time, people have greeted me with open arms.”
Miss Missouri first started her pageant career four years ago during her first year at the University of Florida as a way to make friends with like-minded peers. “I went to a school where I didn’t know anybody and I needed to make friends," she said in an interview with USA Today, “It was a semester-long involvement that I knew would give me friends as driven as I was."
suicide prevention is her platform
O’Flaherty’s platform is suicide prevention, and she has partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Trevor Project, an intervention hotline for youth. It is a subject that is close to her heart after losing one of her best friends to suicide when she was 13. She told Cosmopolitan magazine that, “It became my mission to spread this message — suicide is the second leading cause of death in individuals between the ages of 14 and 25, and the 11th leading cause of death, overall. And LGBT youth are actually eight times more likely to try to commit suicide compared to their straight peers.”
excited to rep the lgbt community
O'Flaherty is 23 years old and came out as a lesbian during her teenage years to a very supportive family. Back in June when she won her state title, she told Good Morning America that she is, "excited to represent the LGBT community."
The Miss America title may have gone to Miss Arkansas, Savvy Shields, this year; But there’s a good chance that Miss Missouri is the contestant that people will remember the most as she continues to be a strong, positive role model for future generations of pageant contestants.
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