ATLANTIC CITY: After competing in pageants for generations in the closet or working behind the scenes, gays and lesbians finally get to see one of their own take one of pageantry’s biggest stages.
Miss Missouri, Erin O’ Flaherty, will compete for the Miss America crown this weekend as the first openly lesbian contestant.
“Behind the scenes, we’ve been well-represented, but I’m the first openly gay title holder, so I’m very excited,” she told The Associated Press in an interview. “I knew going in that I had the opportunity to make history. Now I get to be more visible to the community and meet more people.”
Rich Helfant, executive director of the Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance, helps run the Miss’d America pageant, a drag spoof of the Miss America pageant that has become popular in Atlantic City as an entertainment and fund-raising event.He said he’ll watch the Miss America pageant finals Sept. 11 with extra interest this year.
Miss’d America took its name from the fact that many gay pageant workers toiled behind the scenes during Miss America and never got to see what was happening onstage.
“They literally missed Miss America,” Helfant said. Robert Hitchen of Philadelphia appears regularly in the Miss’d America pageant under the stage name Sandy Beach and recalled decades of behind-the-scenes work on pageants, including designing floats, and later riding on them in Miss America parades.