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All Eyes on Miss USA Contestant Who Revealed She Is ‘Product of Rape’

Miss Pennsylvania Valerie Gatto made the surprising revelation ahead of Sunday’s pageant

Miss Pennslvania Valerie Gatto is competing against 50 other beauties for the title of Miss USA on Sunday night, but she may have already made a significant difference by revealing that she was conceived when her mother was raped at knifepoint.

Gatto made the surprising revelation, and described herself as a “product of rape,” Thursday in an interview with TODAY.com.

Valerie Gatto and her mother (Valerie Gatto/Today.com)

“I haven’t just been preparing for Miss USA for five months. It’s been my entire life,” Gatto said. “Being a child of a rape, not knowing who my father is, not knowing if he’s ever been found, most people would think it’s such a negative situation.

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“I grew up with my mom and my grandparents. They never looked at it as something negative. I have a loving, supportive family who told me I could be the president of the United States.”

Gatto, a marketing consultant, said she spoke out about her personal life to show that it’s possible to overcome any circumstance.

“I believe God put me here for a reason: to inspire people, to encourage them, to give them hope that everything is possible and you can’t let your circumstances define your life.”

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As a child, Gatto started to ask questions about her father. She said her mother began to give her more information when she was in third grade, “Something bad happened to me. A very bad man hurt me but God gave me you,” her mother said.

The 24-year-old currently spends her time educating women about protecting themselves from sexual assault.

The 2014 Miss USA Competition airs live from Baton Rouge, La., at 8:00 p.m. Sunday on NBC.

Gatto is one of 51 candidates, representing each state and the District of Columbia, who will be evaluated in swimsuit, evening wear and interview categories.