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Rose of Tralee Maria: 'I've broken the mould - so I hope it encourages others to stand up and be proud'

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Marie Walsh

Marie Walsh

Maria Walsh with Daithai O Se as she launched the 2015 Rose of Tralee festival

Maria Walsh with Daithai O Se as she launched the 2015 Rose of Tralee festival

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Marie Walsh

Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh has revealed that she doesn't mind being seen as a role model as she hopes she's sending a positive message during her reign.

The Philadelphia-based beauty revealed that she was gay following her win last August and has also voiced a campaign for the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

"I certainly do not mind being held up as an example at all, it's a positive example that I feel I'm setting and it's great that people are still talking about it in January even though I was crowned a few months ago," Maria told the Herald.

A few months on from being crowned as the Rose of Tralee, Maria is glad she decided to be open about her sexuality.

Pioneer

"I'm a transparent person, it would be weird for me not to have my sexuality not come out the way it did," she admitted.

"I've been out with my family for about two and a half years and for me it's a part of my identity - it's just so ingrained and I don't even think about it now.

"Being a pioneer is part of who I am whether it's getting involved with the RSA or singing on A Murray Christmas with John Murray for Aware or speaking about my sexuality.

"I think it was an amazing opportunity, just to get the Rose of Tralee out there and try to make any bit of difference possible and these avenues were easy but hopefully the outcome of talking about them will be greater," she added.

Maria has also travelled more than 65,000 miles - more than the earth's circumference - since becoming the Rose of Tralee, and she will travel hundreds more over the coming fortnight in a bid to find the 2015 Rose.

From next Monday, Maria will travel to every county in Ireland, visiting schools, charities and iconic landmarks and encouraging young women to enter the competition.

She's hoping to find a girl who will take on the role like she did.

"I believe in taking every opportunity that comes, particularly the Rose of Tralee, with everything that I stand for so hopefully next year, they'll find a girl with that same mind set who's always pushing people to be aware of how great the festival is," she said.

Maria (27) currently works for American clothes and lifestyle brand Anthropologie and admits the company have been more than supportive about her role.

"A lot of people assume that the Rose takes a year off which is not the case, most of the time she's working and just trying to keep everything up in the air, but Anthropologie have been great," she confessed.

"They've really embraced the fact that this is an opportunity on a personal level and they don't want me to miss out on the experiences.

"Needless to say I didn't expect the calendar to be as full as it was and it's been growing more and more, but my boss is just like 'do whatever you need to do and maybe just keep us in the back of your head'."

hnews@herald.ie


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