For the first time in its 60-year history, openly lesbian contestants are competing to become Miss California.
Mollie Thomas, 19, will be representing the West Hollywood area in the beauty pageant, while Jenelle Hutcherson, 26, is competing on behalf of Long Beach.
The women, who were approached by pageant recruiters to take part, are battling nearly 400 other women to win the crown - and a place in the national pageant, Miss USA.
Miss Thomas, who has never competed in a pageant before, wanted to take part as it allowed her to represent the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in a positive way, she said.
'I'm running for equality and will use this in order to promote visibility on current issues, to become a youth advocate and a role model,' Thomas said, as quoted in the LA Times.
On her Facebook page, she added: ‘I am taking this opportunity not only to fulfil some of my own aspirations, but also to be a positive role model and inspiration for the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) community and for girls everywhere.’
Thomas, a part-time student at UCLA, has volunteered at a school for handicapped children in Mongolia and at an elephant reservation in northern Thailand. She also helped rebuild homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
She is unable to recall exactly when she came out as gay, adding that her family has always been aware and supportive.
'My family is so open and accepting that I knew very young who I was and who I loved,' she told the Huffington Post.
When asked what her fears were about the pageant, she added: 'I don't have any.
'Initially I wondered if the organisers and other contestants would accept or ostracise me, but I've been fine.'
She will be joined by Miss Hutcherson, who also hopes the contest will help spread a message of tolerance and equality.
'We have the power to create a better future for our kids by setting an example of treating each other with love and equality,' she told the LA Times.
Contestants: Miss Thomas, far right, joins other girls who are taking part in the annual state competition
Contest: 400 girls are taking part in the event, where they are scored in Interview, Swimsuit and Evening Gown rounds
The mentor at a California LGBT center, who has a Mohawk hairstyle, jokingly added: 'That Miss California crown would sure look nice atop the 'hawk.'
'The state (pageant) will emphasise individuality and push the envelope even further,' Keith Lewis, co-executive of the contest, said.
'This year's event will be bigger and reflect the progressive attitudes of the contestants.'
Miss California is an annual event that scores contestants, aged 18 to 27, on their interview skills and in a swimsuit and evening gown section. There is no talent portion of the pageant.
Judges mark the girls on their character, poise, confidence and personality, according to the pageant's website.
It is a traditionally conservative event, with girls who have given birth to a child or who have been married or divorced unable to compete.
Read more: Mollie Thomas: First openly gay woman competes for title in Miss California | Mail Online