Story at a glance

  • Rachel Slawson, Miss Utah 2020, will compete for the Miss USA title as the first bisexual title holder.
  • Slawson has used her platform to talk about mental health awareness and self-acceptance.
  • This comes as Utah state legislature banned gay conversion therapy earlier this week.

The newly crowned Miss Utah 2020, Rachel Slawson, will be competing in the Miss USA pageant as the first openly bisexual candidate later this year.

The beauty queen came out in 2019 and frequently takes to Instagram to post intimate information describing her struggles with mental health and the pressures of pageantry competition.

View this post on Instagram

Let’s just get straight to the point: The last time I tried to end my life I was 19 years old, and it was the night I lost Miss Utah USA. “Why wasn’t I enough?” This is my 7th pageant, my 5th time competing at Miss Utah USA, and tonight I finally experienced hands down the biggest dream of my life. After 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. 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. I am so grateful for this crown. And I promise to do right by Utah and spend this year sharing my truth. But if I’m being honest with you, this crown is a new job, not an answer to the question I spent the last 9 years asking. “Why am I even here?” I am why. If you are in crisis, please text TALK to 741741, and remember you are always worthy of help, and you are worthy of your biggest dream. Your new Miss Utah USA 2020.

A post shared by Rachel Slawson (@saltyrachel) on

Speaking to Yahoo, GLAAD Head of Talent Anthony Ramos said Slawson’s win was called “a huge win for LGBTQ visibility,” and continued to say that “Rachel’s presence on the Miss USA stage later this year will most definitely send a powerful message to LGBTQ Americans and Utahns, especially those in the bisexual+ community, who feel like they have not seen themselves represented in that space before.”

A large part of Slawson’s platform — in life and on social media — is to promote her advocacy work for all members of the LGBTQ+ community. NBC cites her saying that “All I ever wanted is to save 15-year-old me's from the pain and struggle that I dealt with.”

A part of this is dismantling social media to showcase glimpses into real life. In a post dated October 2019, she discusses the emotional fluctuations she endures, not only in her mind, but as a homeless young woman.

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Not trying to bum you out, but I felt really sad and hopeless today. I don’t think we should focus on things that make us sad. I’m working really hard every day with therapy, mindfulness, and meditation to rewire my brain so that I can be more positive and grateful. But I also think that social media makes it really challenging to find our way out of dark times, because there’s a surprising lack of range in human emotion here. We see smiles and people prancing around in new clothes with new lovers and cars and babies. But that can’t be the whole story, can it? We compare our worst days to other’s best filter. My life has seriously never been better then it is right now. My confidence is at an all time high, and I’ve never been more hopeful about the future. But I still don’t always feel safe: I’m scared I won’t get enough work and I’ll be homeless again. I’m scared I won’t find someone to wake up next to in the morning. I’m scared of what others might think of me. I’ve already called my support system since I took this photo, and feel substantially more peaceful. But I just want to remind you that the human experience is messy for all of us. Even when you’re winning. Positivity and gratitude are important. But so is being honest with yourself. If you’re feeling messy tonight, I’m here. You aren’t alone.

A post shared by Rachel Slawson (@saltyrachel) on

This victory for the LGBTQ+ team comes as Utah banned gay conversion therapy on Jan. 22. It is the 19th state to ban this practice, reportedly with help from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who have many practicing members in the state legislature.

Slawson will compete for the 69th Miss USA title in the spring of 2020. The current titleholder is Cheslie Kryst of North Carolina. In 2016, Miss Missouri Erin O’Flaherty helped break barriers for Slawson as the first openly lesbian contestant competing for the Miss USA crown.

Published on Jan 23, 2020