Erin O’Flaherty may not have been crowned Miss America on Sunday (11 September) but she made history anyway as the first openly gay contestant to compete in the pageant.
Miss Missouri O’Flaherty, 23, was eliminated when the top 15 contestants were announced. They were: Kentucky; Washington; Massachusetts; Arkansas; South Carolina; Idaho; Iowa; Texas; California; Oklahoma; Maryland; New York; Tennessee; Louisiana, and Mississippi.
In the end, it was Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields who emerged from a field of 52 contestants as the new Miss America.
O’Flaherty talked about Suicide Prevention Week during her brief time on stage. She lost a close friend to suicide when she was 13 and has partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Trevor Project for her platform.
She came out as a lesbian to her family when she was a teenager and says they have been supportive.
While O’Flaherty was the first contestant in the pageant’s 96-year history to compete as an openly gay person, one previous contestant came out as a lesbian three years after her participation.
She is the 2011 Miss Kentucky Djuan Trent who finished in the Miss America top 10 that year, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
O’Flaherty was the first openly gay woman to win a state title and thus gain entry to the Miss America pageant in the organization’s 96 year history. Though one contestant has come out as gay in years following her appearance in the famous pageant.
When she was crowned the first openly gay Miss Missouri in June, O’Flaherty told reporters: ‘I don’t know that I intended to be the first but I am, so I’m very excited about it.’