LOS ANGELES (CBS) — For the first time in its 60 year history, openly lesbian contestants are competing to wear the sash and crown of Miss California.
The winner goes on to represent the state in the Miss USA pageant.
Mollie Thomas, 19, of West Hollywood and Jenelle Hutcherson, 26, of Long Beach are the two battling it out for the top spot at Indian Wells.
According to the Los Angeles Times, more than 400 women are vying for Miss California USA and Miss California Teen USA, compared to 378 who competed in 2011.
The first round, held Saturday evening, will see the contestants in swimsuits and evening wear.
Both Thomas and Hutcherson were reportedly recruited to enter the pageant.
The newspaper says Thomas is a part-time student at UCLA. This is her first pageant. She decided to enter to represent the LGBT community in a positive light.
Hutcherson entered for similar reasons and also hopes to be a role model for young people. For tonight’s evening gown competition, Hutcherson — a mentor at the LGBT center in Long Beach — wore a tux.