Miss America Is Ditching Its Swimsuit Competition
So long, swimsuits and evening gowns. Miss America’s done with you.
In announcement made Tuesday on Good Morning America, the Miss America Organization (not the Trump-affiliated one, that’s Miss Universe) revealed that the event will no longer include a swimsuit or evening gown competition; contestants will also no longer be judged on their physical appearance.
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Even if your formal education in pageantry extends only as far as Miss Congeniality (and possibly Miss Congeniality 2), you’re probably aware that the swimsuit and evening gown portions—in which the contestants parade around the stage in order to showcase their talent of wearing things—are a pretty big deal. The tradition dates back almost 100 years, when the pageant was founded in 1921.
But like other ideas we’ve ditched in the past 100 years (for example, segregation), these elements haven’t aged well—this according to the organization’s chair of the Board of Trustees, Gretchen Carlson.
Carlson, herself Miss America 1989 as well as a former Fox News anchor, explained, “We are no longer a pageant. We are a competition.” She continued, “We’ve heard from a lot of young women who say, ‘We’d love to be a part of your program but we don’t want to be out there in high heels and a swimsuit,’ so guess what, you don’t have to do that anymore.” She added that she hoped the pageant would resonate more with a younger audience.
The swim and evening gown portions of the event will be replaced with a “live interactive session with the judges” where contestants from all 50 states and the District of Columbia will be “asked to demonstrate their passion, intelligence and overall understanding of the job of Miss America,” according to GMA.
“We are now open, inclusive and transparent and I want to inspire thousands of young people across this country to come and be a part of our program,” continued Carlson. “We want you and we want to celebrate your accomplishments and your talents and then we want to hand you scholarships.”
In addition to serving as the chairwoman of the Miss America Organization, Carlson was a leader of the #MeToo movement, settling a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former boss, disgraced Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes, in 2016. The Miss America Organization also faced its own #MeToo reckoning last December when leaked emails from the former CEO Sam Haskell were found to contain disparaging comments about contestants’ appearances, personal lives, and intelligence. The board is now all-female.
The 2019 Miss America competition will take place on Sept. 9.
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