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SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) – There will be a gay contestant at this year’s Miss South Carolina pageant.

Miss Lyman Analouisa Valencia says she decided to come out before the pageant so she could be more comfortable with herself. She didn’t openly share her sexuality last year when she competed as Miss Electric City.

The 19-year-old from Spartanburg 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.

But Valencia said she hasn’t heard any criticism since going public as a lesbian earlier this year. She told family and friends she was gay in ninth grade.

Preliminaries for the pageant start Tuesday, on Valencia’s 20th birthday. The finals are July 13 in Columbia.

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