Meet Erin O'Flaherty - the first openly gay beauty queen to compete in Miss America pageant
Published 24/06/2016 | 10:44
The first ever openly gay Miss America contestant has been crowned.
Erin O'Flahery (23) was crowned Miss Missouri last weekend and is being hailed as a trailblazer in the pageant community for raising LGBT awareness and making history.
Her main focus during her reign point is raising suicide awareness among LGBT youths, but said her sexuality hasn't been "the only topic of conversation" during the competition.
"They [the judges] ask me about current events, they ask me about my platform, suicide prevention, they really ask about anything that piques their interest … They've always been really respectful," Erin told Cosmopolitan.com.
In my Miss Missouri interview, they asked me how my parents felt when I came out, which is a little bit of a personal question, but my parents were very supportive, so it wasn't awkward at all, really."
O'Flaherty, a graduate of University of Central Florida said she "took a break" from pageants in recent years, but returned in order to pay off student loan debts with the potential scholarship money the organisation provides to winners.
"I actually had taken a couple years off [from pageants], and this year was going to be the last year that I would be eligible to compete because of my age. I just kept coming back to it, thinking, I still want to be Miss America," she added,
"I felt like I wasn't quite done yet. And all of the girls here [in Missouri] were really welcoming and really sweet, so it wasn't as intimidating as you might think."