Analouisa Valencia came to the door in a bright blue facial mask and sweatpants, surprised anyone was coming to see her.
“I’m sorry. I got mixed up and didn’t know you were coming today,” she told the reporter at the door. “Miss South Carolina contestants aren’t supposed to let people see them like this.”
Valencia isn’t the typical pageant contestant in a lot of ways. Her family doesn’t have a lot of money, she is biracial and bilingual and, in what may be a first for the Miss South Carolina and its parent Miss America pageants, she is openly gay.
“This is who I am. People tell me I am the most real pageant contestant they have ever met. I wasn’t open about it last year, and that’s why I think I was so uncomfortable competing,” Valencia said.
Valencia, who turns 20 on Tuesday when the pageant’s preliminaries begin, thinks she is the first openly gay contestant ever in the Miss South Carolina pageant, and perhaps in all of the Miss America competitions. The pageants don’t keep up with that information.
To some, it might be a bit surprising that South Carolina might have the first lesbian competing for a state crown. But Valencia said she hasn’t heard any harsh words since coming out earlier this year.
“I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. I’m really surprised more than anything, but very grateful and humble that I haven’t gotten any feedback, because nobody wants any negativity in their lives,” Valencia said.