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The First Openly Gay Miss America Contestant Has Just Been Crowned

And she plans to do much more than just educate the masses about sexual identity.

On Saturday, 23-year-old Erin O’Flaherty was crowned Miss Missouri, making her the first openly gay woman to be sent to compete in the Miss America Pageant. The new Miss Missouri will be using her platform to speak about suicide prevention, specifically The Trevor Project, which is dedicated to working with LGBT youth.

While O’Flaherty intends to speak about her sexual identity, especially to educate, she has lots of other social obligations as a pageant queen, such as bettering her home state.

She spoke with Cosmopolitan, telling them:

“It's always been an internal struggle, deciding to come out in and of itself. But I never felt like I needed to hide it. I'm just not that kind of person. For the most part, my friends and close family I've always been out to, but I competed for one year before I was [publicly out] — and I knew that once I was open about it, I would actually do much better in pageants because I would know I was presenting who I really was. As I've become more and more open with who I am, and more comfortable with myself, that's really translated into my performance.”

She has also surprisingly found Missouri an accepting place, adding, “People have been very accepting so, as much as it might be scary for me to come into a conservative state and to be who I am, at the same time, people have greeted me with open arms. It's really shown me that, here in Missouri, our politics doesn't necessarily match our people all of the time. I know that there might be people who probably really don't agree with it, but I'm just going to try to be the best Miss Missouri that I can be and show that [my sexuality] is only one part of me. My service to the state is what's going to make me stand out to them.”

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