Miss America waves goodbye to swimsuits and evening gowns

Miss America has a new look: inclusivity.

On Tuesday, the organization announced that it would no longer feature a
swimsuit competition:

Instead, Miss America contestants will vie for the title with attributes
other than their looks.

Gretchen Carlson, former Miss America 1989 and the organization’s chair of
the board of trustees, announced the new look on “Good Morning America”:

“We are no longer a pageant,” Carlson said. “We are a competition.”

The organization’s overhaul—dubbed “Miss America 2.0”—replaced the event’s
swimsuit portion with an interactive session and altered the evening gown
portion to include contestants’ social causes.

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The Miss America organization
published the announcement in its newsroom; it read, in part:

This change in format signals the end of the swimsuit portion of the
competition. In its place, each candidate will participate in a live
interactive session with the judges, where 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.

The former evening gown competition will now give participants the freedom
to outwardly express their self-confidence in evening attire of their
choosing while discussing how they will advance their social impact
initiatives. Talent, which has always been a distinguishing element of Miss
America, will remain a highlight of the competition.

“We are no longer a pageant. Miss America will represent a new generation
of female leaders focused on scholarship, social impact, talent, and
empowerment” said Gretchen Carlson, Chair of the Board of Trustees, adding
“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

The organization was adamant that participating women “will no longer be
judged on outward physical appearance” and said the competition is open to
women of different shapes and sizes.

ABC News reported:

“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,” Carlson said.
“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.”

She continued, “That’s what we’re judging them on now.”

Cara Mund, 2018’s Miss America, also tweeted the announcement:

The branding change is happening as the #MeToo movement accelerates in
Hollywood and beyond, where
it dominated events such as the Golden Globes.

ABC News reported:

In addition to being crowned Miss America in 1989, Carlson has more
recently been an outspoken advocate for victims of sexual harassment and a
champion of the #MeToo movement. In 2016, she settled a lawsuit against
former Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, who stepped down from his
role after mounting pressure from additional employees with similar

The move is also intended to separate the Miss America competition from
negative PR.

The organization was in crisis mode
after the revelation of internal emails from its former chiefexecutive, Sam Haskell. In December, Haskell was suspended from the board.
Shortly after, he resigned.

Moneyish.com reported:

Carlson took over the Miss America competition with a new all-female
leadership team earlier this year, after the organization’s former
executive director Sam Haskell and president Josh Randle resigned over
leaked emails that insulted former pageant winners’ appearance and sex
lives — including Carlson.

The New York Times

The organization, confronting its own harassment scandal and searching for
its place in the #MeToo era, had worked on the new format for several
months. The nine members of the board of directors — seven are now women —
unanimously approved the change in March. It was kept a secret until two
days ago, when state directors and former Miss Americas were informed.

ABC News reported:

“This is a new beginning and change can sometimes be difficult but I know a
lot about change,” [Carlson] said. “My life has worked in mysterious ways.
I never thought I’d be the chairwoman of the Miss America Organization, but
here I am and we’re moving it forward and we’re evolving in this cultural

Response to Miss America’s new focus has been mixed.

Though many social media users applauded the organization’s announcement,
others pointed to pageants such as Miss World and Miss Universe, which will
continue to have swimsuit portions. Some suggested the Miss America
organization is ignoring its beginnings.

Piers Morgan wrote in Mail Online

The competition was set up nearly 100 years ago in Atlantic City, New
Jersey, as a bathing beauty pageant specifically designed to attract
tourists to the area during Labor Day weekend.

The first contest in September 1920 was entitled ‘The Fall Frolic’ and was
so successful that by the following year 100,000 people turned out to watch
young women compete from all over the country.

Margaret Gorman, Miss District of Columbia, was declared “The Most
Beautiful Bathing Girl in America’, and quickly became known as Miss

Since then, thousands of beautiful young American women have entered their
state contests hoping to win a coveted prize on the Miss America show.

The New York Times

… [W]hat started as contestants wearing one-piece bathing suits,
conservative by today’s standards, became women in revealing bikinis and
high heels parading around for a leering television audience.

Miss America’s change also highlights organizations’ need to reevaluate how
their structures and policies fare in today’s media landscape, where
controversies can quickly become crises.

What do you think of the organization’s new approach, PR Daily

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