Miss South Carolina hopeful, Analouisa Valencia, opens up to 429Magazine about being a lesbian in the pageant world and her work with the Special Olympics.
The 19-year-old, who currently holds the title of Miss Lyman, which is about 20 minutes away from her hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina, has been doing pageants since she was seven. She says that since the beginning, she knew she wanted to compete for Miss South Carolina one day.
Valencia came out as a lesbian in the eighth grade when she was 13-years-old. She says it’s always been a positive experience and she’s received supportive feedback.
“The South is a more conservative place but I have gotten no negative feedback, and everyone at Miss America has been very supportive,” Valencia told 429Magazine. “My mom is accepting of me, but not necessarily supportive of my lifestyle. But she’s my mom and she loves me regardless. I have a good support system.”
Valencia has been dating Tamyra Bell for three years, and as she gushed about Bell’s basketball skills, she says that her girlfriend has been a great supporter during the pageant process. The two attended each other’s proms and have had no problems at either school for being an out couple.
Valencia also represents African American and Latina women, and wants to bring attention to the work she does with the Special Olympics. She has been involved since she was eight, and became a unified partner, which means she trains and participates in games alongside the athletes.
“I first competed with a special ed partner in ice skating, and you would think that, because I have been a gymnast, it would go well. But that was a complete fail,” she said, laughing. “I then started volunteering and eventually started coaching gymnastics.”
Valencia says that all the positivity she has been receiving has been a humbling and sweet surprise. To be getting messages from people she doesn’t even know that say they can be who they are because of her brings her to tears. She also says that she feels God has given her this title for a reason, and part of it is to influence others to be who they are.
“One of my favorite quotes is by Dr. Seuss ‘Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind,’” Valencia said. “People are going to talk about you no matter what. It could be the way you walk or simply the way you wear your ponytail, and people will always judge you because that’s the society we live in. But if you own who you are and treat people how you want to be treated, you will get that back, and I can’t thank America enough for the support.”
Miss South Carolina 2013 takes place on July 6th through the 13th. If Valencia wins, she will be on her way to the Miss America pageant in 2014.