'Having a sense of humour is key to being Irish' - Maria
Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh says a sense of humour is an intrinsic part of being Irish and she's had a laugh at the reaction to her sexuality.
The Mayo native became the first openly gay Rose after she won the crown last September.
She says she doesn't take herself too seriously and that having a sense of humour is key to her success in the public eye.
"If you don't have a sense of humour, you cannot live in Ireland or claim to be Irish. One tweet was like, 'I think I'm more upset that she's a pioneer than she's gay.' That was quality," she said.
"Or one chap tweeted, 'Saw the Rose of Tralee at the Ploughing Championships today wearing a denim jacket. We get it. She's gay', and I was like, 'that is brilliant'."
Maria added that her sexuality never came up in conversation until after she was chosen.
"I think some people think being in the Rose of Tralee means that you must only talk about boys, but it's not that way at all … Why would it matter who I choose to share my bed with," she said.
The 27-year-old splits her time between Ireland and Philadelphia where she works for lifestyle brand Anthropologie.
While she has no plans to start a family just yet, Maria said that having children "will always be a possibility" whether she is a single mother or in a relationship.
"My father asked me when I came out whether I'd have children, but that is one thing that I've never shied away from," she said in the current issue of Irish Tatler.
While she will be giving back her crown later this year, Maria is still quick to defend the meaning of the title of Rose of Tralee, referring to the common Father Ted-inspired jokes about the competition.
"When did the description 'lovely lady' become a negative connotation?
"I would love if people who spent time in my company called me a lovely lady. I think we [Irish people] are hardest on our own," she said.
She's had a busy few months and says a recent trip to Vesnova, Belarus with the Chernobyl Children International charity was "extraordinary".
"There were no tiaras or pretty heels or makeup or tuxes or anything of that sort - it was three days of hard work," she said.