Erin O'Flaherty was crowned Miss Missouri 2016 on Saturday night. The beauty queen is the first openly gay woman to win a state pageant leading to Miss America.
O'Flaherty says she struggled with her sexuality growing up as a self-described "feminine girl" in Florence, South Carolina, and entered the pageant scene as a college student while still, publicly, in the closet. "Knowing I might be gay but also being very feminine was kind of confusing for me," O'Flaherty told Cosmopolitan.com, "because I didn't fit into the stereotypical category I had in my head for a woman in the LGBT community." "It took many years of struggle to figure out who I was," she continued.
Picture from the 2016 Miss Missouri Pageant
She will have the opportunity to compete at Miss America 2017 on Sunday, September 11, 2016. The national pageant will be held at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.