A Beauty Queen to Believe In
BY Julie Bolcer
July 15 2010 11:05 AM ET
What specifically does your platform advocate?
My platform is “Straight for Equality: Let’s Talk.” I feel that it’s really important to promote equality for all people, “all” being the main word. As a straight ally, I think it’s so necessary to have that straight allies’ support for the LGBT community. My platform is politically driven in that I think we need political reform for gay rights, but I’ve really taken it down to organizations like PFLAG where I have the opportunity for personal mentorship.
I would say that during my year as Miss New York, a big focus of mine will be the schools. PFLAG has for the past five years developed a safe schools program but it’s been our main focus for the past two years. Last year we spoke to about 1,600 kids around Manhattan and the five boroughs, speaking a lot in areas like the Bronx, where we have an added level of cultural and racial discrimination, especially toward those in the LGBT community. You’re breaking all the stereotypes. My opportunity is to go into the schools and speak to someone who is five, six, seven years younger than me. I still feel able to identify with them. They’re able to see someone who’s young and straight and a role model.
What inspired you to take up these issues?
My sister Sarah is a big part. She is a lesbian. I think that started my outward advocacy. I would say that our family in general was always very accepting of every kind of diversity. And so when Sarah came out, it empowered me to speak up rather than just remain in neutral. In addition, I was a dancer growing up and in a dance program at Ball State University. My community is full of LGBT people. It’s my duty to speak up for them. One of the reasons I adopted this platform is that I realize my family is unique. So many kids don’t have that experience. I want to make sure my experience becomes more of the norm.
Is the Miss America organization ready for your platform?
Well, I think it should be. Look around. This is a nonprofit organization run completely by volunteers. The people involved in sustaining this program, so many of them are LGBT when you think about it, our fan base. The gay community has stood behind us. When I walk into an event with a crown on, I’m supported. I think they are ready. I think I am prepared to present it to Miss America in a way that they won’t be able to say no. I acknowledge that there’s a risk involved, because at the end of the day the one person standing is going to represent the entire organization, but at the end of the day, she also represents the entire nation. Ultimately, I have a platform about respect and equality for all.
Have there been any negative responses to your message?
I have not felt a push-back from people. When I get into a conversation, they realize that I am not here to change someone’s mind. I am here to open a dialogue. That’s why my platform is “Straight for Equality: Let’s Talk.” People may think of marriage equality, but actually, gay rights is a platform for so many more issues.