MEXICO, Mo. — When newly-crowned Miss Missouri Erin O’Flaherty takes the stage at the Miss America pageant in September, she won’t just be representing the Show Me State. She’ll also be setting a precedent as the first openly gay contestant in the history of the pageant.
Erin O’Flaherty was crowned Miss Missouri in Mexico, Mo on June 18.
Ann Jolly, chairman of the board of the Miss Missouri Scholarship Organization, said Wednesday that the 23-year-old O’Flaherty is the first openly gay woman to be named Miss Missouri.
“It’s certainly making history and I’m not sure I set out to do that, but I am the first openly gay Miss Missouri and contestant to head to Miss America so I am excited about that. But, mainly, I’m excited to represent the LGBT community,” O’Flaherty said on “Good Morning America” Saturday live from St. Louis.
O’Flaherty sent out her first tweet as Miss Missouri on Wednesday.
O’Flaherty said in a telephone interview that she came out as gay when she was 18. She knew going into the Miss Missouri pageant if she won she’d be making history, but she says that wasn’t her focus.
“We’re underrepresented in public in positions of influence. So I’m excited to take that on and I hope that my presence will help with visibility for the community.”
O’Flaherty’s platform is suicide prevention. She will be promoting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and working closely with The Trevor Project, the nation’s leading crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline for LGBT youth.
“LGBT youth are actually up to eight times as likely to commit suicide as compared to their straight peers if they come from an unaccepting environment,” she said. “So I’m really excited to partner with them and I hope it will be a great year of social change.”