In this Oct. 17, 2017, file photo, Gretchen Carlson participates in the BUILD Speaker Series to discuss her book “Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Back Your Power” at AOL Studios in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision)

Miss America drops swimsuit portion and won’t judge on looks

Pageant began nearly 100 years ago as bathing beauty contest to keep tourists coming back to resort

The Miss America pageant is dropping the swimsuit competition, saying it will no longer judge contestants on their appearance but on “what makes you you.”

The pageant began nearly 100 years ago as a bathing beauty contest to keep tourists coming to this seaside resort after Labor Day. But in recent decades, women’s groups and others have complained that making contestants parade across the stage in bathing suits and high heels is outdated, sexist and more than a little silly.

The announcement Tuesday came after a shake-up at the Miss America Organization that resulted in the top three leadership positions being held by women. The overhaul was triggered by an email scandal last December in which Miss America officials denigrated winners’ intelligence, appearance and sex lives.

“We’re not going to judge you on your appearance because we are interested in what makes you you,” Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America who became head of the organization’s board of trustees in the wake of the scandal, said in making the announcement on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Carlson, whose sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes led to his departure, said the board had heard from potential contestants who lamented, “We don’t want to be out there in high heels and swimsuits.”

“Guess what?” she said. “You don’t have to anymore.”

In place of the swimsuit competition, contestants will participate in an 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 organization said in a statement.

Carlson said the evening wear portion of the competition will also be changed to allow women to wear something other than a gown if they want.

“It’s what comes out of their mouths that we care about,” she said.

Leanza Cornett, Miss America 1993, supported the dropping of the swimsuit competition.

“I hated it,” she said. “I always felt awkward and uncomfortable.”

She added: “In the climate of #MeToo, I think it’s a really wise decision. We’re living in a different era now, and when we move forward for the empowerment of women, we will be taken much more seriously, and I think that’s huge.”

Carlson said she is not worried ratings for the nationally televised broadcast might suffer. She said that the swimsuit portion is not the highest-rated portion and that viewers seem more interested in the talent competition.

The changes will start with this year’s broadcast on ABC on Sept. 9. Because many of the state and local competitions that decide the Miss America finalists have already begun, the dropping of the swimsuit portion will not take effect at those levels until next year’s competition, the organization said.

Carlson said the Miss America Organization will emphasize its role as a scholarship provider and is “no longer a pageant.”

Mallory Hytes Hagan, Miss America 2013, was a particular target of the emails, many of which ridiculed her weight gain after she won the title. In a Facebook video Tuesday, Hagan said she weighed 124 pounds when she was crowned. She said she is now 164 pounds, which she said most people would consider normal.

She is running for Congress in Alabama as a Democrat.

“There are tons of women across this country who are not ‘swimsuit-ready’ who are doing some really bad-ass stuff in their communities,” she said. “We should be honouring them, and that doesn’t involve putting on a two-piece bathing suit and walking onstage in heels.”

Wayne Parry, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Planned power outage upsets Kelowna neighbourhood

Some Toovey Heights residents claim no advance notice given by FortisBC

Water flow blamed for Kelowna retaining wall collapse

Safety concerns remain along Black Mountain neighbourhood street

UPDATE: Kelowna stabbing victim tight lipped about incident

Police say 35-year-old North Okanagan man stabbed in Mission area Sunday won’t talk to investigators

Petition launched in Lake Country to let horses use the Rail Trail

Riders, upset by their local council’s decision to ban horses, want the move reversed

Pumps run dry across the Central Okanagan

Kelowna, Peachland and West Kelowna all reporting gas shortages

Homeless people living on ‘Surrey Strip’ move into modular housing

BC Housing says 160 homeless people are being moved into temporary Whalley suites from June 19 to 21

BC Ferries posts strong earnings before rate cuts

Last year highest ever for vehicle traffic, most walk-ons in 20 years

More than 150 tremors hit Vancouver Island in last 24 hours

Seismologists monitor to see if pressure will be added to major fault

Injured mountain biker airlifted to hospital in Kelowna

A mountain biker spent the night with rescuers after suffering injuries

Snapchat used to make mass shooting threat in Kamloops

RCMP did not dub the threat a hoax, instead called it “unsubstantiated”

Amphitheatre planned for Kamloops area winery

Monte Creek Ranch Winery can finally proceed with amphitheatre plans

B.C. groups file response to government’s fight against solitary confinement

B.C. Supreme Court judge suspended ruling for one year to give government time to draft legislation

National sports organizations have to report allegations of abuse immediately

Sporting organizations will lose federal funding abuse goes unreported, says Kirsty Duncan

BC conservation officers release badger from wolf trap

Badger recovering after being caught in trap near Williams Lake

Most Read