Miss America has its first ever openly gay contestant in its 95-year history.
Erin O’Flaherty, 23, who was crowned Miss Missouri in June, was the first gay winner of that competition.
‘I don’t know that I intended to be the first but I am, so I’m very excited about it,’ she told reporters at the time.
She said while her sexuality is ‘certainly a big part of who I am’, she added: ‘There will be many appearances that I do that have nothing to do with that.’
O’Flaherty will speak on suicide prevention, a serious issue in the LGBTI community.
— Miss Missouri (@MissAmericaMO) 31 August 2016
Josh Randle, chief operating officer of the Miss America Organization, said the pageant reflects a changing America.
‘Through every major milestone of our nation’s evolution, Miss America has provided a voice for women from all walks of life, and, this year, we welcome our first openly gay contestant,’ he said.
‘Miss America contestants continue to be the best and brightest in the country, and we proudly support each and every young woman who competes in our national program.’
Tuesday is the first of three nights of preliminary competitions that end on Thursday.
The winner will be crowned on Sunday night.