(CNN)Miss Utah USA champ Rachel Slawson competed for the crown five times before she finally won.
This year, her first time on the national stage, she’ll be competing as her most authentic self.
Slawson, who is bisexual, will be the first openly queer contestant in the Miss USA pageant’s 68-year history.
The 25-year-old is a 7-year pageant veteran, but her Miss Utah USA win this month marked the first time she’d ever discussed her sexuality onstage.
“After years of trying to be somebody else, it turns out being yourself is what works,” she told CNN.
The response to her transparency was largely positive, she said — “They picked me!”
But even before she was crowned, Slawson didn’t shy from the tough conversations. On Instagram, she’s shared her bipolar diagnosis, a suicide attempt at 19 and her struggle to accept herself.
Her past is part of why she chose mental health awareness and suicide prevention as her primary platforms.