As Staten Islanders marched proudly in the New York City borough's annual St. Patrick's Day parade Saturday, Miss Staten Island was restricted to the sidelines, reports CBS New York.
Just hours after Madison L'Insalata came out publicly as bisexual, she said, organizers banned her from taking part.
"It's really hurtful. Nobody likes to feel rejected from their community," said L'Insalata, who's 23.
Jim Smith, the director of Miss Staten Island Scholarship Pageants, broke the news to L'Insalata late Saturday night. He said parade organizer Larry Cummings called him saying L'Insalata and another pageant queen who supported her were banned.
"I was stunned by the whole thing. I wasn't prepared. He just said we're worried about her safety, like he's doing us a favor," Smith said.
"I am proud of Staten Island and I am proud of the title that I have because I know that myself and all the other girls involved do a lot of really great things for our community," L'Insalata said. "So it's a shame that this really great community event, we ended up not being allowed to be a part of."
She showed up at the parade anyway, wearing her rainbow scarf and heart sticker, but was only able to watch.
Cummings has been harshly criticized for continuing to ban the Pride Center of Staten Island from participating in the parade. CBS New York tried to speak with Cummings by phone and at his home, but the station's reporter and crew were asked to leave.
L'Insalata went to the parade anyway. Her mother said it was hard to watch. "It was hurtful," her mother said.
"I knew that people would talk about it, and that's all I wanted. Because the more people that know about it, the more likely it is to change," L'Insalata said.
She added that many community leaders and spectators applauded her decision to show her true colors at the parade. She's hoping it sparks conversation and inclusion.