Miss America scraps the swimsuit competition, says they will no longer judge based on physical appearance
For 97 years, women have competed to be Miss America, strutting the stage in bikinis and glamorous evening gowns. But now the beauty pageant is making some sweeping changes. "We are no longer a pageant," announced Gretchen Carlson, chairwoman of the Miss America Organization, during an appearance on Good Morning America. "We will no longer judge candidates on their outward physical appearance. It’s going to be what comes out of their mouth that we’re interested in, when they talk about their social impact initiatives."
Say bye bye to bikinis, because the swimsuit competition is eliminated. In place of the segment, contestants will take part in a live interactive session with the judges. During the interview, "she will highlight her achievements and goals in life and how she will use her talents, passion, and ambition to perform the job of Miss America." Instead of being judged on their bodies, they'll be judged on their words.
"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," said Carlson. "Who doesn’t want to be empowered, learn leadership skills and pay for college and be able to show the world who you are as a person from the inside of your soul. That’s what we’re judging them on now."
But that's not all. The organization is also revamping the evening gown portion of the competition. They're now asking contestants to wear whatever attire makes them feel confident and expresses their personal style. That might be a glitzy evening gown, or that might be sweatpants and a hoodie. The contestants are free to wear "whatever they choose."
Carlson was crowned Miss America in 1989, and is the first former Miss America to be named chairwoman of the organization. Recently she became a champion of the #MeToo movement. In 2016, Carslon filed a lawsuit against Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, claiming sexual harassment. After her claim went public, dozens of other women came forward with similar accusations, and Ailes was forced to resign from the company. Carslon says the rise of the #MeToo movement influenced the changes to the Miss America pageant.
"We're experiencing a cultural revolution in our country with women finding the courage to stand up and have their voices heard on many issues," wrote Carlson in a statement. "Miss America is proud to evolve as an organization and join this empowerment movement." She hopes that the changes will help the pageant resonate more with young people, and include women "of all shapes and sizes."
These changes were expected, since, for the first time, the Miss America organization is being led entirely by women - the trio of Gretchen Carlson, Regina Hopper and Marjorie Vincent-Tripp. The previous leaders resigned in December, after The Huffington Post revealed their controversial emails. In the emails, they insulted the appearance, intellect and personal lives of pageant contestants, including Carlson. The inappropriate comments included references to the ladies' weight and even sex lives.
The next Miss America competition takes place September 9. But one person, who won't be watching is British journalist Piers Morgan. He tweeted, "Nobody watches Miss America to see ugly, 250lb contestants talking about world peace." Stay classy, Piers!