The Miss South Carolina pageant will welcome Analouisa Valencia, the first multiracial and openly gay candidate in the competition. The 19-year-old first broke barriers when she won pageants in a predominately Caucasian contestant pool. If Valencia so much as wins the contest as an openly gay contestant, this will speak volumes in her notoriously conservative home state.
Valencia has fortunately been spared controversy and backlash so far since news spread of her participation in the annual competition. Her father is of Mexican heritage and her mother African American, making her stand out from many of her counterparts.
"I just really wanted to be an advocate for equality for everyone this year," she told CNN in a phone interview.
The philanthropy that she plans to promote in the pageant will be LGBT rights as well as rights for people with special needs. Valencia has taken pride in being a coach for Special Olympics events. However it will be interesting to note how the panel of judges will approach the extraordinary candidate.
South Carolina remains to be one of the most strictly conservative states when it comes to the LGBT community. The state legislature outlawed gay marriage after it ratified an amendment in 2007. With that in mind Valencia’s participation shows tremendous courage.
Valencia is not the first openly gay pageant contestant. Two lesbian contestants entered the Miss California competition in 2012, however they failed to make it to the final leading spots. As for some other pageant milestones, race has fortunately been a barrier that has slowly diminished. The first African American Miss America winner was Vanessa Williams in 1984. Over the decades several other black women have held the crown as well. In 2001 Angela Perez Baraquio became the first Asian American women to win the competition.
Now that race is no longer an overarching issue in the pageant world, sexuality will be the next hurdle. With Valencia’s courage and positive attitude, she may have a strong chance at securing the crown, all while reintroducing LGBT rights into the conversation in South Carolina.
"I want to show the judges who I really am," Valencia said. "I want to show them how passionate I am about my platform, how passionate I am for being an advocate for equality."