05.08.1310:57 AM ET

Gay Teen Campaigns for Miss South Carolina

Would be first openly lesbian contestant.

If Mark Sanford’s reelection is any indication, it looks like South Carolina is relaxing its sexual mores—which could be good news for Analouisa Valencia, a 19-year-old who is angling to become the first openly gay Miss South Carolina. Valencia, who says she is naturally shy, has forced herself to go on interview after interview because she says she believes in equal rights for all. “The change is way more important than the crown,” Valencia says. “I just want to inspire people … This year, I decided if I was going to compete, I was really going to make a difference.” Valencia said that while she expected a backlash, she has been overwhelmed with all the messages of love and support.