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Miss California USA Contestant Mollie Thomas: Lesbian Miss Sunshine - INTERVIEW

Miss California USA Contestant Mollie Thomas: Lesbian Miss Sunshine - INTERVIEW

Mollie Thomas became one of two out lesbians to make history by entering the Miss California pageant this past weekend.

In 2009, Carrie Prejean, then Miss California USA, made headlines for her interview answer during the Miss USA pageant as she stated her opposition to marriage equality. At that time, just after the passage of Proposition 8, Californians were heart broken that their beauty queen representative did not support equality for all, but then again beauty pageants are not known for being inclusive or supportive of the LGBTQ community.

A few years later there were not just contestants who choose equality and anti-bullying campaign platforms, but this year there were two young women who are out and proud lesbians that vied for the title of Miss California USA.

Mollie Thomas is one of those ladies. She grew up in Pennsylvania. As a child, she loved wearing tiaras and dreamed of one day being a beauty queen. Not too many years later, she joined a volunteer travel organization that took her abroad to do things such as live with a family in Mongolia while working at a school for handicapped children, spend a summer volunteering at an elephant reserve in Northern Thailand, participate in restoration programs in Australia and rebuild homes with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

All her traveling resulted in her becoming even more involved in human rights issues, and played a big role in her personal life with her own identity. She doesn’t hesitate to let people know she is a proud lesbian.

Even though she had loved to wear tiaras as a young girl, the opportunity to compete in the Miss California USA pageant this year came as a surprise. While working on an unrelated project with one of the pageant recruiters last September he discovered Mollie is a lesbian and suggested she enter the competition as an out contestant. 

Mollie says she couldn’t turn down the opportunity to be the first out lesbian to vie for a pageant title. She took the opportunity to not only fulfill personal aspirations, but to continue as a positive role model not just for the LGBTQ community, but girls everywhere.

The Miss California USA 2012 pageant was January 8, 2012, and although she didn't place, she still made history. We got a chance to hear from Miss Abbey West Hollywood Mollie Thomas on how the experience went. 

How much did you know about the amount of work, time, planning and dedication that a pageant requires when you signed on to compete?

Going into this I really had no idea of what to expect or how to prepare. Before Miss California USA I had never been involved in a beauty pageant, so I was making it all up as I went! Now that I know what to expect, how much preparation is required, and of course how much fun it is, I have decided to run again in next year’s competition!

It’s great that you didn’t just participate as a lesbian, but that you used marriage equality and anti-bullying as your campaign platform. You have done humanitarian work for many different causes, and around the world, but opted to use LGBTQ equality and issues as your platform. Did all the controversy that came from Carrie Prejean’s interview answer stating her opposition to gay marriage in 2009 have anything to do with your decision? If not, what was the main factor in your decision to run with equality as your campaign?

I not only decided to run openly to stay true to myself, but I decided to use GLBT rights and issues as my platform because it is one that is very close to my heart. I have spent my entire life giving back in many different ways, but running for Miss California USA as an openly gay woman has given me the opportunity to represent and give back to a community that I am very much a part of. I believe very strongly in being proud of who I am, and being true to myself no matter the views of those around me, I chose to run in hopes of inspiring others to feel the same.

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How did you decide on your title (Miss Abbey West Hollywood)?

I chose to represent The Abbey because not only has it become a home away from home since I moved to Los Angeles, but it is also a major center for the Los Angeles GLBT community.

What did you wear for all the various segments of the competition?

Throughout the competition and every day I wear jewelry by Lyon Fine Jewelry, designed by Lauren Russell who is a close friend and very talented designer. She donates 20% of proceeds from her Equality bracelets to a gay rights organization called Friend Factor. For the evening gown portion of the competition I was very generously donated a gorgeous gown by BCBG Max Azria.

What was the biggest surprise in your preparations for the competition?

One of the biggest surprises for me was the amount of support I received, not only from the gay community, friends and family, but also allies and people from all over the world. I owe the success of my campaign to all my supporters and the people who stepped above and beyond to help me get out my message.

How old were you when you first came out and what was the experience like?

I was blessed to have a very open and accepting family, so coming out was not a challenge for me at all. I knew from a young age that I was gay and never really went through a self-realization stage; I started coming out to my friends and family when I was about 15 and most people in my life were so supportive.

How did your experiences coming out and being out help prepare you for or effect your participation in the pageant?

Participating as an openly gay woman in such a historically straight competition is extremely daunting. However, I think that all the support of my initial coming out definitely gave me the bravery to run openly. I grew up and came out in such a supportive environment that I never needed to be afraid or feel like I needed to hide who I am.

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Participating in the Miss California USA pageant as an out lesbian is a huge deal. Has the magnitude of what you did sunk in yet?

The whole weekend was just so exciting and it hasn’t stopped! It’s just starting to sink in how huge all of this is and it’s an incredibly humbling feeling. I originally set out to inspire even one person, and it feels so incredible to know that I have achieved that, above and beyond what I ever expected.

There was another lesbian competing this year, Jenelle. Did you two get a chance to talk at all?

I did get the chance to speak with Janelle over pageant weekend, and I’m so happy that she was running alongside me! She’s a great girl with a huge heart, and I’m so happy that we could show such diversity while making a huge step for the GLBT community.

Any advice you would give to other lesbian first-time pageant contestants?

Just because we are lesbians does not mean we are any less women. Be true to who you are, and who you love.

Did you have any embarrassing or funny moments?

Surprisingly I only had one “oh no” moment all weekend! While I was waiting for the preliminary show to start so I could walk out in my swimwear, I was de-stressing by dancing in the wings, I was really getting into it, shuffling and just being silly, I turned around and someone’s grandmother who was sitting in the front row was staring right at me and laughing.

What is your favorite pageant-themed movie and why?

Little Miss Sunshine! There were definitely a few times during my campaign where I could really relate to Olive, the main character. She and her family are flying by the seat of their pants, and she goes into that pageant, shows exactly who she is, and just has fun with it! It makes me kind of wish that Miss California USA required a talent portion, just so I could do my own “Superfreak” dance!

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