The state of Missouri has crowned its first ever lesbian Miss America contestant in Erin O’Flaherty, a 23-year-old shop owner living in St. Louis.
The announcement was made this past Saturday at the Miss Missouri competition in Mexico, Missouri. After the announcement, Ann Jolly, chairman of the board of the Miss Missouri Scholarship Organization, confirmed that O’Flaherty is the first LGBT contestant to win the title of Miss Missouri.
O’Flaherty spoke with the Associated Press over the phone Wednesday afternoon about her big win. In the interview, she revealed that she came out when she was 18 and chose to compete openly in the Miss Missouri competition knowing that if she won she’d be making history.
“I’m on cloud nine really just to be Miss Missouri,” she said. “I don’t know that I intended to be the first, but I am. So I’m very excited about it.”
Officials of the Miss America Pageant have yet to comment on her win, but O’Flaherty believes that she will be the first fully out contestant to take the Miss America stage in Atlantic City.
Moving forward, the newly crowned Miss Missouri will use her platform to raise awareness for suicide prevention. While she plans to engage with the state’s LGBT community, she says that she doesn’t want that to be the sole focus of her year-long reign.
— Miss Missouri (@MissAmericaMO) June 19, 2016
“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.”
Though O’Flaherty is the first out contestant to ever snag a Miss title, she’s not the first lesbian woman to compete in the system. That distinction belongs to Analouisa Valencia, who competed for Miss South Carolina in 2013.
Check out Erin’s crowning moment below.