May 29, 2009 — -- When an openly gay high school senior was voted prom queen at his Los Angeles high school last weekend, the school's students and officials not only accepted it, they basked with pride in being one of the most diverse and tolerant schools in the nation.
"Tears were almost falling down my face," said Sergio Garcia, 18, of the moment he was named prom queen at Fairfax Senior High School in Hollywood Saturday night, where he beat out eight girls for the crown.
"It was a really emotional moment," Garcia told ABCNews.com.
"No matter what your race or religion or sexual orientation, there is acceptance and there is hope," said Garcia of Fairfax High.
"Fairfax High School is smack dab in the middle of everything here in Los Angeles," said Zubiate. "We have one of the most diverse schools in the nation.
"I mean that not just racially, but that we also represent a lot of lifestyles," he added. "Tolerance is a really big issue for us.
Zubiate said that in addition to being located in Hollywood, neighborhoods comprised of Jews, Latinos and a large gay population surround the perimeter of the school.
According to Zubiate, 50 percent of the student body is Latino, 20 percent is African American and another 20 percent is Asian. There are 2,600 students at the high school, nearly 550 of which will graduate alongside Garcia.
"We are in a very diverse area," he said. "And if you're growing up in that kind of world, it's going to build in tolerance. It just naturally does."
Gay Prom Queen Had The Support Of His Peers
Hoping to pursue a career in cosmetology after his June graduation, Garcia said that the large majority the 547 seniors in his class were in support of his bid for prom queen and not prom king, the title some might deem more appropriate for a male student.
"Prom queen suited my personality the most," said Garcia. "I need to prove to myself I could be myself."
Having submitted his application for queen on May 14, Garcia spent the two weeks leading up to the dance campaigning for the title, delivering a speech before his classmates during which he promised he'd wear a tuxedo and not a full-length gown.
"I warned them that I wouldn't wear a dress and that I'd wear a suit, but that deep down I really am a queen," he said.
Garcia told his peers that while prom might have once been considered a popularity contest, that this year would be different.
"I told them that it's no longer about who has the most friends or wears the coolest clothes," Garcia said.
And on May 23, the night of the senior prom, Garcia's wish came true: He was crowned prom queen after winning the majority of his peers' votes that were cast using a paper ballot system during the dance.
And, keeping with tradition, Garcia danced with the prom king, fellow senior Keith Perez, who Garcia said "didn't mind at all" that he had to dance with the school's first male prom queen.
Fellow students were on the chairs clapping, recalled Garcia, who said that there were a lot of camera flashes going off as he danced.
"It was crazy," said Garcia, who switched to dance with his best friend after a few seconds with Perez.
Vanessa Lo, 18, the senior class president, had the honor of announcing Garcia as the prom queen Saturday night.
But for Lo, it was no surprise.
"I already expected it because of the amount of applause and support during his speech," said Lo, whose went to the prom with Perez, the newly crowned prom king.
Lo said that besides two of the girls who lost the title to Garcia Saturday night, who she said were "not too happy" with the situation, the majority of the class was happy with the results.
"We're accepting change, our school is open-minded, we support everyone despite the differences," said Lo. "It's equal opportunity for everyone."
One of Lo and Garcia's peers, Juan Espinoza, 17, told the Los Angeles Times that he wasn't as happy as most of his friends about the crowning.
"I'm not really happy about that," Espinoza told the paper. "He should've run for prom king."
School Boasts Big Star Alumni
Garcia and his peers graduate in the wake of several big stars: Notable alumni of the high school include the members of the rock band the Red Hot Chili Peppers and actress Mila Kunis. Actress Demi Moore also attended the school until she dropped out at age 16.
Zubiate, the principal, said that it's not surprising for anyone who has been to the school that so many talented adults graduate from the institution.
"The kids here really do their own thing," said Zubiate. "We're lucky that here, unlike many schools in the L.A. area, we don't have to worry about racial tensions."
Lo echoed this, saying that "everyone hangs out together" and that her peers genuinely like each other.
Students at the school expressed a range of reactions following Garcia's crowning. But Zubiate said that most of the response has been positive and that he has received calls from all over the world asking to talk to their newest prom queen.
"Garcia is very well-adjusted and that's tough for any kid at this age," said Zubiate. "Even though he's a senior it's still a tough time. They're about to wander out to the real world, and what comes with that if you're gay or not gay is hard."
"It seems like he's ready," said Zubiate.