POSTED: Sunday, July 7, 2013 - 11:13am
UPDATED: Monday, July 8, 2013 - 9:57am
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) — Gowns and crowns will be gracing the Miss South Carolina Pageant next week, but all the pomp and circumstance is taking a back seat to one contestant in particular who is making national headlines.
MOREAdditional LinksFor 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.
"Why should she not win," asked Analouisa's mom, Hattie Palasox. "She's got everything."
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," said 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.'"
Valencia's appearance in the pageant is not just history-making in South Carolina.
"I'm the first openly lesbian contestant in the Miss America system, the first bilingual contestant we've had, so that's good," said Valencia.
With three titles already under her belt, Valencia's family says her success helps represent the changing face of the south. But it's a change that has been met with criticism.
"She's a product of that change and it's taking time for people to accept it," said Palasox.
"A lot of the older generation, they don't accept it," said Valencia's friend, Treston Boyd.
Valencia says its her passion for coaching Special Olympic athletes that she wants judges to remember rather than what she identifies herself as personally.
"If I bring back that crown to Spartanburg, that would be great, but if not, I did what the Lord had planned for me," said Valencia.
With the winner of the pageant receiving a $25,000 scholarship, there's plenty at stake for Valencia.
But she plans on taking it all in stride regardless of what happens.