25-year-old Rachel Slawson was just crowned Miss Utah USA, making her the first openly bisexual contestant to participate in the pageant. This spring Slawson will compete with other women for the Miss USA crown. She is the first out and proud beauty queen to compete since the pageant started back in 1952.
The victory is a sweet one for Slawson, as she expressed in an emotional Instagram post to her followers. Slawson stated that the pageant world was the "dream of my life."
Sweet Victory After Sad Past
Before recognizing this dream, Slawson dealt with a difficult and sad past. She shared that at 19 years old, she attempted suicide after losing a pageant and dealt with a lot of mental health problems throughout the years.
In the Instagram post, she stated that her battles included, "a few trips to the psych ward, being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (the reason I had such an extreme reaction to losing a pageant) and finally coming to terms with who I am as a queer woman.”
An Advocate For Those Who Feel Alone
Slawson has written extensively on her website about her struggles with anxiety and depression in hopes of making others who are battling the same things feel less alone.
“All I ever wanted is to save 15-year-old me’s from the pain and struggle that I dealt with. Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of role models and felt really alone, and I want young people to understand that their struggles with mental health are nothing to be ashamed of and are no different than other health issues,” she said to NBC News.
Paving the Way for Others
When she's not competing in pageants, she is advocating for mental health. She works as a suicide prevention advocate for the Crisis Text Line and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, according to NBC News. Slawson has also spoken at several mental health events and created a hashtag called #IAmWhy that promotes good self-esteem and self-confidence.
She's come a long way and it's completely changed the way she sees pageants and how she reacts to the outcomes. This time, when she got the Miss USA Utah crown, she was in the mindset to be grateful even if she didn't receive. "The only difference between tonight, and the night I left broken hearted wishing I wasn’t alive, is that I knew I was enough before I arrived," she said in her Instagram post.
Looking Forward to the Future
Slawson is excited about the future and willing to stand up and stand out for what she believes in. "When I hear how much hatred still lives in the world, towards people with different sexualities, mental health issues, or a confusion between the two, I have to speak up,” she wrote.
Slawson has expressed that she often felt alone in her struggles and this is why it's so important to her that she is a role model in the lives of others. It sounds like this beauty queen has a good head on her shoulders and we can be sure she'll make a giant splash in the competition this year.