When Miss Utah USA Rachel Slawson competes in the Miss USA pageant this spring, she will be the first openly bisexual contestant to vie for the crown.
Slawson, 25, made history on Saturday after she was crowned Miss Utah USA — and will continue to do so on her next stage, where she’ll be the first out beauty queen since the competition’s inception in 1952.
Slawson got candid with her followers after her big win, and shared an emotional post to Instagram outlining the various hardships over the years that made her new crown all the more special.
She revealed that she previously attempted suicide at age 19 after losing a pageant, and dealt with serious mental health struggles along the way before realizing “the biggest dream of my life.”
Her challenges have included “a few trips to the psych ward, being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (the reason I had such an extreme reaction to losing a pageant) and finally coming to terms with who I am as a queer woman,” she wrote. “And the only difference between tonight, and the night I left broken hearted wishing I wasn’t alive, is that I knew I was enough before I arrived.”
The pageant queen wrote on Instagram in November that she came “out of the closet” in early 2019 because “there were lots of spiders and it was hard to breathe.”
She wrote that she has not identified with labels such as queer or bisexual, and that she had long put off coming out because she did not want to be “known as that ‘bi’ girl.”
“But when I hear how much hatred still lives in the world, towards people with different sexualities, mental health issues, or a confusion between the two, I have to speak up,” she wrote.
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Slawson told NBC News that she’s looking forward to using her platform to help erase the stigma that surrounds mental health and sexuality, both of which she said have brought her “shame.”
“My bipolar disorder and my sexuality are part of what make me beautiful, and I want people who see my competing on the stage, to embrace the imperfect facets of themselves, too,” she said.
When she’s not competing on stage, Slawson also works as a suicide prevention advocate for the Crisis Text Line and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, according to the outlet.
“All I ever wanted is to save 15-year-old me’s from the pain and struggle that I dealt with. Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of role models and felt really alone, and I want young people to understand that their struggles with mental health are nothing to be ashamed of and are no different than other health issues,” she told NBC News.
Her win comes one month after Miss Myanmar Swe Zin Htet became the first openly gay contestant to compete in Miss Universe.
Slawson will next grace the stage at the Miss USA competition this spring, the winner of which will go on to Miss Universe next December.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.