When Rachel Slawson was crowned Miss Utah USA on Jan. 18, it was a major achievement for the beauty queen. But it was also a historic move. When she competes at Miss USA this spring, she will be the first openly bisexual Miss USA contestant in the pageant's 68-year history.
"I knew this would be a monumental first for the state of Utah, but it wasn't until the day before the pageant I learned that never before has a queer woman walked the stage at Miss USA," the 25-year-old winner tells Elite Daily. "This is a historic moment for the entire LGBTQ+ community and I am honored to participate."
This milestone was many years in the making for Slawson, who has competed for this title four times. This marked her first time competing as an openly bisexual woman who speaks candidly about living with bipolar disorder. "My advice to all people considering pageantry, queer or not, is to never sacrifice your authentic self for anyone else's opinion," she shares. "It wasn't until I accepted the parts of myself that I was most ashamed of that I learned they were the most beautiful aspects of who I am. The judges agreed: being yourself works."
Following her win, she posted an Instagram featuring a caption about her journey to the crown. She shared that had previously attempted to take her life following a pageant loss at age 19. As Miss Utah USA, she is dedicated to erasing the stigma that surrounds mental health and sexuality, she told People.
Slawson already works as a suicide prevention advocate for the Crisis Text Line and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. "You are never alone, but it's up to you to ask for the help that you deserve," she tells Elite Daily. So reach out. Help is here."
The personal significance of this milestone is still sinking in for Slawson. As she explains to Elite Daily, "With everything I do, I always think back to what this would mean to my teenage self. Fifteen-year-old Rachel had terrible self-worth, and it's been an extremely difficult road to get to where I am today. Ten years later, the shame is gone, and all that's left is the breath of fresh air that comes from true self-acceptance. To share this on stage at Miss USA and with the entire world is a dream come true."
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. You can also reach out to the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386, or to your local suicide crisis center.