Miss America is Making Some Controversial Changes
Wow. In an unexpected but welcome move, the Miss America Organization announced they are getting rid of the swimsuit portion of the competition. Former Miss America and Chair of the Board of Trustees Gretchen Carlson spoke about it on Good Morning America.
“We are no longer a pageant; we are a competition. We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance. That’s huge. And that means we will no longer have a swimsuit competition.”
She also mentioned that the organization will be making changes to the eveningwear segment of the program. Women will be allowed to wear what they want, and judges will be more focused on what they have to say.
Instead of emphasizing appearance, there will be a shift to brains, goals, and socially responsible activities. It is a huge departure from what the show is known for and its 97-year-old origins.
The first Miss America pageant was launched in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1921, and was used as a marketing tool for the summer season and local businesses. The swimsuit competition was always a major draw, and the talent portion wasn’t added until the late 1930s.
Add to the mix that historically, the contest’s criteria has been constructed around looks and allure with the age range being between 18-28, and for single women. High heels, makeup, and slender bodies have typically been the standard.
So, what will this new version look like? With the Carlson at the helm, the group is looking to revamp its entire image in this era of #MeToo. In 2017, the organization was embroiled in its own scandal when news of sexist and demeaning emails surfaced.
Members of the leadership team were exposed for making scathing comments about contestants, including calling former 2013 winner Mallory Hagan a “piece of trash”. After some resignations from the CEO and members of the board, a set of women leaders were installed to bring in changes in outlook, attitude, and programming for Miss America.
Before becoming chairwoman, Carlson was previously involved with the organization’s board of directors as a sitting member, but quit due to discontent. She is also the woman who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News.
In light of the issues being brought up by the #MeToo movement, Carlson has found inspiration for how the program will be reshaped moving forward:
“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. Miss America is proud to evolve as an organization and join this empowerment movement.”
Time will tell how these changes will impact viewership and fans of the show, but in the meantime, it looks like contestants are happy with the prospect of doing something different. As the Miss America competition approaches its 100th birthday, we wonder what other surprises are in store.
Are you a fan of Miss America or other pageant competitions? Will you be watching the broadcast in September without the swimsuit segment? What do you think of all the changes?