Miss America Finally Has Its First Openly Gay Contestant

Erin O'Flaherty was crowned Miss Missouri on Saturday night. She is the first open lesbian to win Miss Missouri, and is believed to be the first openly gay Miss America contestant.

She came out when she was 18, and did not hide this fact when she competed. O'Flaherty told the Associated Press,

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 is 23 years old. She owns a clothing store outside of St. Louis. Although she is happy about her achievement, she doesn't want the fact that she's gay to be the focus of her competition. Her platform is suicide prevention.

She said,

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.

O'Flaherty will go on to compete at the Miss America competition in Atlantic City, New Jersey on September 11 this year.

Having grown up down the street from the Miss Missouri winner in 1995 – incidentally, in the same town Tyronn Lue is from – I want to personally wish O'Flaherty luck in the Miss America competition this fall.

Bring it home, Erin.

Citations: ET, Associated Press