|Miss New York Claire Buffie, 24, will compete in |
Miss America pageant in Las Vegas on Jan. 15.
Instead of sticking to something safe, Miss New York Claire Buffie will be championing gay rights as part of her campaign to become the next Miss America.
Never in the 90-year history of the pageant has a contestant gone to bat for gays. And the 24-year-old brunette knows she's taking a risk with her "Straight for Equality: Let's Talk" platform.
But this, she says, is the civil rights struggle of her generation.
"Miss America is looking for a woman who is intelligent, has a vision and is compassionate about making change," she told the Daily News.
Born and raised in Indiana, Buffie was second runnerup in the Miss Indiana 2008 contest before she pulled up stakes and moved to lower Manhattan - and set her sights on becoming Miss New York.
In doing so, Buffie found her cause.
"The reason I am such a vocal straight ally is because my older sister, Sarah, is gay, and I have a lot of gay friends and a gay roommate," she said.
They, she said, are "people that I care about so much and that I never want to see treated as second-class citizens."
High-profile suicides of some gay teens last year also fueled her cause.
"That proves to me that this is not something that we can brush under the rug anymore," Buffie said.
To give the beauty pageant more heft, Miss America organizers began requiring contestants in 1989 to come up with a social platform.
Most opt for causes that are worthy - and noncontroversial.
This year, for example, Miss New Jersey is running on "Read to Succeed" and Miss Connecticut is going with "One World: Global Awareness for Global Prosperity."
Not Buffie. When the show airs live from Las Vegas on Jan. 15, she's going for broke.
"It's groundbreaking in a way since it's the first in the Miss America organization," she said. "But also it's just so current."
Mindful that she also has to do well in the swimsuit part of the competition, Buffie said she gets in shape the way many New Yorkers do.
"I run the Brooklyn Bridge all the time," she said.