Progression is beautiful. As the most prestigious court in the land weighs two landmark same-sex marriage cases, South Carolina mulls a historic moment of its own. Nineteen-year-old Analouisa Valencia, an African-American and Latina pageant queen, will be competing in the Miss South Carolina scholarship competition.
If Valencia is awarded the crown, she will earn a $25,000 college scholarship, an apartment and a sponsored car service. The current Miss Lyman would also be the first lesbian “Miss South Carolina.” The importance of entering the history books isn’t lost on Valencia, but she simply wants to compete because she’s loved pageants since childhood.
“I’m from Spartanburg, S.C. and I started pageantry when I was Miss South Carolina Princess for Miss Spartanburg 2000,” she told The Advocate. “After that, I decided I wanted to be in pageants when I got older. So, when I got old enough I started to compete.”
The Spartanburg beauty queen has been an out lesbian since ninth grade. Her decision to reveal her sexuality publicly was met with both love and resistance.
“My teachers were ok with it,” she said. “My mom at first said, ‘Well, I don’t support it, but I love you so I’ll support you.’ She’s ok with it now, but it’s been a couple of years. My dad at first was very, very, very furious. I think it took him a good three weeks to finally accept the fact that I was just going to be who I was and be proud of it. My teachers were very supportive.”
Maintaining a positive attitude has been essential to Valencia’s emotional and mental health, especially since she’s lived in South Carolina, a notoriously-conservative state.
“I’ve experienced a lot of things in life. A lot of negativity. I’ve seen a lot of people get bullied, so I try to be on the up side of things,” she explained. “Special Olympics South Carolina is my platform and I’ve been working with them since I was 8-years-old. And I’ve seen so much discrimination towards people with special needs, and I’m Hispanic and African-American and I’ve seen a lot of discrimination there, as well as with other minorities. So, I try to be an advocate for equality for everyone and be that positive role model. If I can’t be that role model and be positive and comfortable in what I have to say then I shouldn’t have it as my platform.”
Valencia champions diversity with her girlfriend of three years, Tamyra Bell. They were prom dates and have long-term plans.
The Miss South Carolina contender is a student at Spartanburg Community College and hopes to major in business at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Her goals include owning and training gymnasts.
Right now her focus is on the pageant. Pageant culture is notorious for glitz and glam. Valencia thinks homosexuality should be reconciled with pageantry. She will attempt to bridge the gap when she faces off against dozens of other qualified candidates.
The Miss South Carolina competition is scheduled to begin July 6.