Following her Miss Utah USA win earlier this week, Rachel Slawson, 25, will become the first openly bisexual contestant in the Miss USA competition, a notable first in the pageant’s nearly 70-year history, according to NBC News.
Before the win, Slawson wrote on Instagram that “being Queer is not a ‘platform.'” She continued, “I may be LGBTQ, but that’s just one detail on the list of things that make me Rachel.”
“Through my personal experience with Bipolar Disorder, and searching for my place in the LGBTQ+ community, I would often ask myself, ‘Why am I even here?'” Slawson wrote to Mashable in an emailed statement. “As I have learned, I am my own way.”
Slawson told Mashable that she is launching an online initiative, dubbed #IAMWHY, to encourage those struggling with mental health issues to be vocal.
On her personal website, she also cites Crisis Text Line, an organization that provides support to those in crisis around the country, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, as organizations she actively supports.
Slawson’s presence on the Miss USA stage adds to a recent increase in LGBTQ representation within the pageant world: In 2016, Erin O’Flaherty crowned Miss Missouri, became the first openly gay contestant to compete in the Miss America pageant.
Then, in the 2019 Miss Universe pageant, Swe Zin Htet became the first openly, gay contestant, to compete, made especially notable by the fact that homosexuality is illegal in her home country of Myanmar.
“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, said to Mashable in an emailed statement. “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.”
If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For international resources, this list is a good place to start.