Miss America Organization Drops Swimsuit Competition

Miss America
AP Photo/Viviana Pernot

The Miss America Organization has announced an end to the swimsuit portion of its competition and the practice of judging contestants specifically on their outward appearance.

Gretchen Carlson, who was crowned Miss America in 1989, made the announcement of the new direction on Tuesday’s broadcast of Good Morning America, CNBC reported.

Branding the pageant “Miss America 2.0,” Carlson said, “We’re not going to judge you on your appearance because we are interested in what makes you you.”

Carlson, the latest head of the pageant’s board of directors, added that many contestants expressed criticism of the swimsuit and evening gown portion of the pageant in this day of a heightened awareness of sexual harassment.

Carlson, who filed a sexual harassment suit against Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes precipitating his departure from the network, added that some contestants told pageant officials, “We don’t want to be out there in high heels and swimsuits,” in this era of #MeToo awareness.

The changes will refocus the pageant on talents, Carlson said. “It’s what comes out of their mouths that we care about,” she added.

Like many institutions, the pageant has not been free of controversy. Last year outrage erupted when email communications were leaked showing some pageant officials disparaging contestants for their appearance and sexual choices. The resulting scandal caused the pageant to clean house among its upper leadership. The shake-up brought Carlson and three other former Miss Americas to lead the organization, including Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss (2012), Heather French Henry (2000) and Kate Shindle (1998).

The elimination of the swimsuit segment ends an over 100-year tradition. Indeed, the pageant was created in 1921 out of an annual Labor Day beauty contest started in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the early 1900s. A main feature of the original beauty contest, the “Inter-City Beauties,” was the public swimsuit contest held on the Garden Pier. The winners originally vied for the “Golden Mermaid” trophy.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.


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