Lesbian Contestants Make History at Miss California USA

They didn't win, but two lesbian contestants say they were pleased with their showing

By Ted Chen and Bill French
|  Tuesday, Jan 10, 2012  |  Updated 7:14 AM PDT
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Mollie Thomas and Jenelle Hutcherson didn't win the Miss California USA pageant, but they were happy with their showing

Ted Chen and Lori Bentley

Mollie Thomas and Jenelle Hutcherson didn't win the Miss California USA pageant, but they were happy with their showing

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Mollie Thomas' memories of childhood sound like those a lot of women might recall.

"I loved to dress up," she said. "I grew up as a dancer."

In some ways, it's a typical American story. When she was little, Mollie Thomas dreamed of becoming a beauty queen.

"I had a pretty intense collection of tiaras when I was pretty little," she says.

However, Thomas coming out as a lesbian later in life is what makes what she did Sunday night decidedly untypical and historic. The UCLA student joined hairstylist Jenelle Hutcherson of Long Beach as the first two openly gay women to compete for Miss California USA.

"It felt like the corners of cheeks just wouldn't stop vibrating I was so nervous," said Hutcherson.

Hutcherson was most nervous about the evening gown competition and wearing her purple tuxedo, while Thomas says it was the bathing suits and showing her multiple tattoos that gave her goosebumps.

"My first big coming out on stage was in my swimsuit," says Thomas. "I did a lot of prep for that, a lot of working out."

Neither contestant winded up winning the pageant. That honor went to Natalie Pack, 22, a University of California Irvine junior who has already made her mark as a model.

But in truth, Thomas and Hutcherson had different goals.

This was, after all, the same competition where Carrie Prejean made headlines two years ago by speaking out against same-sex marriage. Thomas and Hutcherson wanted to send the opposite message.

"I got up there to make me happy," says Hutcherson. "I got up there to influence these kids that I work with as a mentor, to be themselves, to be who they are and see how the world reacts."

"Being who you are and being true to yourself and being a strong woman rather than being your stereotypical beauty pageant girl," is how Thomas saw her role.

Thomas says she had such a good time, she's planning to compete again next year. And in true Hollywood fashion, she already has an entourage. They call themselves, "Team Mollie."

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