COLUMBIA, South Carolina (WIS) - For the first time in history, the pageant has an openly gay contestant. She's also multi-racial, and many are calling her the new face of the south.
Her name is Analouisa Valencia.
It's take two for beauty queen Valencia, who will compete against 48 other contestants next week to win the title of Miss South Carolina.
"Last year, I did compete at state, but I wasn't as comfortable because of the fact I was hiding who I was," says Valencia. "This is my first year coming out and saying, 'This is me, girls. Sorry, I'm going to be changing in the same dressing room as you. This is what's going to happen.'"
"I'm the first openly gay contestant in the Miss America system, the first bilingual contestant that we've had," she said.
Her family is supportive. They say her success helps represent the changing face of the South.
But Valencia has also faced criticism.
"The older age people, the older generation, they look down upon her," said Treston Boyd, Valencia's friend.
Valencia says it's her passion for coaching Special Olympic athletes that she wants the pageant judges to remember rather than what she identifies herself as personally.
"We'll see how it turns out," she says. "If it turns out to where I bring that crown home to Spartanburg, that'll be great. But, if not, I did what the Lord had planned for me."
The winner will be crowned July 13.
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