Staten Island’s reigning beauty queen was booted out of her borough’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday, shortly after announcing that she would march with a rainbow sticker as an openly bisexual member of New York City’s LGBTQ2S+ community.
Madison L’Insalata, 23, revealed her sexuality and her plan in an interview with the New York Post on Saturday amid a heated public debate over the parade. Staten Island is the only New York City borough that bars the local Pride organization from marching in its St. Patrick’s Day parade, the Post reports.
“There’s no rule against me wearing a rainbow,” L’Insalata told the Post on Saturday. “I want people to see the colours and ask questions.”
She later told ABC 7 that she wanted to wear the colours in defiance.
“I thought this might be a good time to really make a statement and take a stand, and I wanted to announce that I would be marching in the parade with rainbow colours and showing and coming out and saying that I was bi because I wanted people to see the colours,” she said.
L’Insalata showed up for the parade on Sunday but was immediately sidelined, according to local reports. She was ultimately left with no choice but to champion her cause from the fringes of the annual spectacle.
“It’s really hurtful,” L’Insalata told CBS 2 on Sunday. “No one likes to feel rejected from their community.”
She had planned to wear a rainbow scarf and a small rainbow sticker on her lapel, she said.
Two other beauty queens boycotted the event outright over its refusal to include members of the LGBTQ2S+ community. Several elected officials also refused to participate amid the broader conversation about representation, ABC 7 reports.
“I was stunned by the whole thing,” said Jim Smith, director of the Miss Staten Island Scholarship Pageant. He says parade organizer Larry Cummings called him after 10 p.m. on Saturday night to tell him L’Insalata was barred from Sunday’s event.
“He just said, ‘We’re worried about her safety,’ like he’s doing us a favour,” Smith told CBS 2. “I wasn’t prepared.”
Smith told the New York Post that Cummings was adamant about the decision. “He was not to be bargained with,” Smith said.
He added that he doesn’t believe the notion that L’Insalata was in danger.
“I’m very disappointed, though I’m not surprised,” he said. “I know they’re very strong in their beliefs.”
Cummings has declined requests for comment from the Post, CBS 2 and ABC 7.
L’Insalata has marched in the last two St. Patrick’s Day parades as Miss Richmond County, but she was not allowed to display rainbow paraphernalia during those events, CBS 2 reports.
She says she felt strongly about showing the rainbow colours this year, even if she wasn’t allowed to do it in the parade. L’Insalata ultimately showed up and wore her colours on the sidelines of the event.
“I knew that people would talk about it, and that’s all I wanted,” she told CBS 2.
“The more people know about it, the more likely it is to change.”