When Rachel Slawson competes for the title of Miss USA later this year, she will reportedly be the first openly bisexual contestant to take the stage. Earlier this week, Slawson was crowned Miss Utah USA 2020 and GLAAD is calling it "a huge win for LGBTQ visibility."
"As an openly bisexual woman, Rachel Slawson being crowned Miss Utah is a huge win for LGBTQ visibility," Anthony Ramos, GLAAD’s head of talent, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. "Rachel’s presence on the Miss USA stage later this year will most definitely send a powerful message to LGBTQ Americans and Utahns, especially those in the bisexual+ community, who feel like they have not seen themselves represented in that space before."
Yahoo Lifestyle reached out for comment to Miss USA, but did not immediately receive a response. Miss USA is part of the Miss Universe Organization, which differentiates itself from the non-profit Miss America Organization by being a for-profit company owned by Endeavor, having no talent competition and by being formerly owned by Donald Trump.
Days before the competition, Slawson made it clear on social media that "being Queer is not a 'platform.'"
"The reason I waited so long to come out as a member of the LGBT+ community was that I didn’t think who I choose to love should define who I am," she shared on Instagram. "Life is short. And I have more questions [than] answers, but one thing I’m sure of is that we came here to love."
She added, "And if the people I’ve loved means I am ‘queer’ or ‘bi’ or whatever they call it, then I am proud of that. ... I may be LGBTQ, but that’s just one detail on the list of things that make me Rachel."
Slawson wants to use her platform to shed light on mental health issues — and her own story is inspiring.
After winning the title of Miss Utah USA, Slawson called it "the biggest dream of my life," but stressed to her followers that getting a crown isn't everything. Slawson shared that years ago when she lost the title — this was her fifth time competing — she wanted to take her own life.
"After 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," she wrote on Instagram. "And 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."
Slawson continued, "I am so grateful for this crown. And I promise to do right by Utah and spend this year sharing my truth."
Although she called her title a "new job," she stressed it's "not an answer to the question I spent the last 9 years asking. 'Why am I even here?' I am why."
Slawson isn't the only woman breaking barriers in the pageant world. Last year, Swe Zin Htet was the first openly gay Miss Universe contestant. In 2016, Miss Missouri Erin O’Flaherty was the first openly gay Miss America contestant.
If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
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