Two openly gay contestants entered the Miss California USA pageant this year but lost out as the winner was chosen yesterday.

Mollie Thomas, 19, of West Hollywood, and Jenelle Hutcherson, 26, of Long Beach had set their sights on the winner’s diamond-studded crown, which marks a step on the way to the Miss USA pageant.

Student Thomas had 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.”

Hutcherson told the Los Angeles Times: “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 had added that the winner’s crown “would sure look nice” gracing her mohawk, but it was not to be.

Natalie Pack, a 22-year-old with dreams of being a doctor was crowned instead.

Although the lesbian hopefuls were up against hundreds of other contestants to make it to the final, Hutcherson had recently made to the last round of a similar regional competition in Long Beach, California.

The contestants were judged on interview skill, and swimsuit and evening gown-wearing. Judging criteria included character, poise, confidence and personality. According to the pageant’s website, there was “no performing talent required”.

Keith Lewis, co-executive of the state pageant said ahead of the event that it would “emphasise individuality and push the envelope even further, distancing ourselves from most traditional pageants.

“This year’s event will be bigger and reflect the progressive attitudes of the contestants.”

Lewis added: “We have changed the essence of Miss California USA from a bathing-suit beauty contest to the style of a sexy runway show during fashion week.”

The California state pageant has produced a national winner in the Miss USA contest roughly every ten years.