Miss America Axes Swimsuit Competition

#ByeByeBikini: Miss America 2.0

On June 5, 2018, the Miss America Organization announced contestants would no longer be judged in a swimsuit competition. In an interview on Good Morning America, former Miss America 1989 and current Miss America Organization Chairwoman, Gretchen Carlson said, “We are no longer a pageant, we are a competition.  We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance.”

According to the organization’s press release, the new format will include a live interactive session with the judges, where the contestant “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.”

Along with scrapping the swimsuit competition, Miss America is also changing the evening gown portion:

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.

The changes have caused mixed reactions.  In a statement given to the Deplorable Housewives of the Midwest, Miss Minneapolis 2014, Julia Schliesing, said:

Julia Schliesing, Miss Minneapolis 2014; Photo: Tessie Jones Photography

From what I have seen, women who are competing or have competed in the lifestyle and fitness portion of the competition have very different reactions about this decision. Some see this as a positive step towards getting women who compete in pageants taken as seriously as they deserve to be.  Others see this as caving to public pressure caused by people with little-to-no understanding of the purpose of the swimsuit competition. Only time will tell if this boosts the standing of titleholders in the Miss America pageant system, or if it will negatively impact the spirit of the competition.

Kendall Morris, Miss Texas 2011 and a Miss America swimsuit competition winner, tweeted out a statement regarding the changes, saying, “I have mixed feelings about getting rid of that part of the competition. I have experienced firsthand the benefits of the fitness portion through receiving scholarship money and working with trainers who volunteered their time to teach me how to eat healthy and exercise…” Ms. Morris continues, “In a world where obesity rates continue to climb, I do see the benefits to a fitness competition…”  She ends by saying that the changes are exciting because of “the new opportunities that more young women may have to compete…and I welcome the changes for its future as it continues to evolve to represent the women of 2018.”

Others criticized the change. Kali Brooke Whitaker, Miss Old North State 2017, said in a tweet, “ is sending the wrong message – the swimsuit competition does not need to change, but how we teach young men to treat women does.”

Some Twitter users compared the elimination of the swimsuit competition to the push toward “participation trophies.”

Outspoken actor James Woods tweeted, “50 women in raincoats talking about world peace. Can’t wait.”

Radio talk show host, Mark Simone warned that Gretchen Carlson is “destroying the Miss America pageant,” and the changes will cause the pageant “to lose their TV contract.”

What do you think of the changes? Do you watch the Miss America pageant? Do you believe the swimsuit competition was an important part of the pageant or was it an antiquated means of judging women that led to objectification? Tell us what you think on the comments here, or Facebook or Twitter.

Updated 6/6/2018 10:48am ET

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