Photo Credit: Analouisa Valencia via Facebook.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Miss South Carolina 2013 pageant, a part of the Miss American Organization, has “come out” literally this year with its first openly lesbian contestant in the system’s history.

Analouisa Valencia, a 20-year-old from Spartanburg and titled as Miss Lyman, decided that it was time to be open about her sexual orientation during the pageant’s run this season. Hiding who she was, Valencia said, made her less comfortable and confident competing for last year’s Miss South Carolina.

“Coming out this year in the pageant world has made me become a lot more confident and comfortable with who I am and inspired so many people to make their dreams come true, no matter who you are or where you come from,” she said.

Her mission was to inspire people and make things better for everyone.

“I wasn’t going to compete this year, but God put me on a mission and I accepted fully. I promised I would do my best to inspire and make change happen for LGBT, minorities, underprivileged and special needs [people],” Valencia continued.

The trailblazer’s Facebook post stated that she did not make it into the finals and felt she inspired others.

As far as her knowing about her sexual orientation, she said she knew most of her life. “I loved Barbie. I thought she was incredibly beautiful. As time progressed and I got older, I started to develop crushes on female classmates.”

When asked about whether or not the fallout of her disclosure had come with a price, considering that pageant systems are quite political, she said, “It hasn’t come with a price that I can tell. All I have received is positive feedback, encouraging words, prayers and endless support. That has made me so humble.” She added that the other contestants welcomed her with open arms, even though she feared they would not.

In Canada, a transgender contestant, Jenna Talackova, competed in the Miss Universe Canada in 2012. She had originally been disqualified from the event, but with pressure mounting from activist organizations and the community, she was allowed to compete. She placed in the top 12 and tied for Miss Congeniality.

Inspired by her, Valencia said she looked up to her for taking a stance and that Talackova was proud of herself and exhibited strength during the process. “I have had to have all those qualities, as well,” she commented when asked if she thought she’d have similar challenges.

Her Talent presentation was a vocal rendition of “Footprints in the Sand” by Leona Lewis.

She told The Associated Press that she “became interested in pageants in 2000, when she joined a mentoring program for young girls called Palmetto Princesses and met Miss Spartanburg. The tiara got her hooked. She has been competing ever since.”

Her platform centers around Special Olympics. She said she was a fan and that she had worked with it since she was eight and began coaching when she was 14.

Valencia is biracial and bilingual. Her father is of Hispanic decent and her mother is African-American. She has two brothers. A former gymnast, she crossed over to singing when an injury sidelined her career.

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Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.