For the first time in the Miss USA pageant's 68-year history, this year's competition will include an openly LGBT contestant: Rachel Slawson.
Rachel, who is bisexual, will represent her home state of Utah at the 2020 Miss USA pageant next week. Regardless if she wins, the 25-year-old is "just really grateful" to be competing, she expressed on Monday, Nov. 2's Daily Pop, since the road to success certainly hasn't been a straight line.
"I competed for the title of Miss Utah five times before this happened," Rachel told E! co-host Justin Sylvester. "And I never expected it would be during a global pandemic."
Her lengthy pursuit of the title she earned in January of course required years of training and practice, but for Rachel, that's not what led to her finally being crowned Miss Utah.
"A lot of people don't understand just by looking at me or my social media or seeing national news that I have been in hospitals for my mental health," Rachel revealed. "And I have been homeless. And there's a lot of steps I have had to take to be in this moment right now."
She continued, "This isn't just like a shiny, sparkling moment. It is a celebration of a lot of work that I put into myself and into my mental health to be able to be a role model for other people."
Rachel's been particularly candid about what this work has entailed, including being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and "finally coming to terms with who I am as a queer woman," she wrote on Instagram after being crowned Miss Utah.
Justin asked Rachel if she was ever afraid that her sexuality was going to hurt her chances of making it to where she is now, prompting her to explain that she has "a different perception as to what 'winning' really is."
"For me, winning is being fully yourself," she continued. "And pageants, for me, are the perfect place to do that because they have such a stereotype of being 'perfect,' but what does that even really mean? Who is perfect? And I think, really, perfection is embracing all the things about you that make you different."
Though Rachel certainly has her hands full at the moment, she admitted on Daily Pop that she has her sights set on another type of competition in the future.
"I think that I should be the first bisexual Bachelorette," she said. "That's one of my dreams because I think the LGBTQ community needs to be represented in modern media."
Rachel continued, "And I think that if we had more examples of love stories that are diverse—especially because of my story, you know, overcoming and living with Bipolar Disorder, that's something that's so often shamed and stigmatized—if we had a Bachelorette and a Miss USA that says, 'Hey I'm bisexual. I've been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, and I deserve to have my dreams come true and I deserve to have love...' I think that would make a huge change."
Watch the complete Daily Pop interview with Miss Utah in the above clip.
The 2020 Miss USA Competition will air live on FYI Monday, Nov. 9 at 8 p.m.