The Miss America Pageant just made a bold and exciting move when it crowned the first openly gay contestant in the franchise's 95-year history.
Erin O'Flaherty, 23, was crowned Miss Missouri on Saturday and, according to chairman of the board of the Miss Missouri Scholarship Organization, Ann Jolly, she is the first openly gay woman to hold the title.
"My coming out was very public, which was hard because you want it to be very private," O'Flaherty told Riverfront Times. "The public access to that was very challenging because I wanted to protect my relationship and who I am, and come to terms with myself before the rest of the world got a chance to."
According to Entertainment Tonight, O'Flaherty also believes she will be the first openly gay contestant to compete in this fall's Miss America pageant, scheduled for Sept. 11 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“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,” she said.
While this may be the first time an openly gay woman has won a title in the Miss America pageant, there are a number of other beauty pageants around the world that celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, including Miss Gay Venezuela and Miss Trans Israel.
We're proud of you, Erin!