Hundreds of women compete for the Miss South Carolina crown every year, and this year a contestant from the Upstate is mixing things up a bit and even getting some national attention for it.
Miss Lyman, 19-year-old Analousia Valencia, is promoting herself as openly gay and proud of her sexuality.
"I guess you would say I'm stepping out of the boundaries of the pageant word," said Valencia.
Valencia hopes to shed new light on what it is to be a pageant queen by showing there is more than the stereotypical pageant women. Valencia is also biracial and hopes by getting her voice out, more minorities of race and sexual orientation will get involved in pageants. So far, Valencia said she has only gotten positive feedback about being open.
"I think its a great thing for me to be myself and for people to actually take that as a positive thing, especially down here in the South," said Valencia.
Valencia said she's the first in the Miss South Carolina to be openly gay and promote equality, and there have been some preparations.
"I've sat down with my media manager. He prepared me mentally to expect parents and churches and religious groups to come to Miss SC and Miss America and say 'I don't want my daughter in a dressing room with her,' 'I don't want my daughter competing with her,' 'I just don't want her competition at all,'" said Valencia.
But she said she's ready and plans to respond to criticism calmly and positively. She said she aims to be a role model and said she doesn't believe being openly gay will hurt her chances at the crown.
"I'm not really sure what to expect. I'm going to be true to myself," she said. "I'm just going to go give it everything I have and leave it on the stage."
Valencia is a Special Olympics gymnastic coach, and Special Olympics is her platform. She hopes her message will inspire her students to become good role models. She also hopes to inspire more minorities to participate in Special Olympics.
Valencia and her friends are creating T-shirts to sponsor her trip to the Miss South Carolina competition in July.
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