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groups and others have complained that making contestants parade across the stage in bathing suits and high heels is outdated, sexist and more than a little silly.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

Boyes wins coach of the year

Local volleyball coach to be recognized by Volleyball Alberta

Court full as schools, parents dispute Alberta gay-straight alliance law

Justice Centre argues keeping parents out of the loop violates freedom of religion and expression

Marijuana to be legal in Canada Oct. 17: Trudeau

Prime Minister made the announcement during question period in the House of Commons

In reversal, Trump signs executive order to stop family separation

President had been wrongly insisting he had no choice but to separate families apprehended at border

WATCH: Mellisa Hollingsworth highlights Special Olympics Celebrity Breakfast

Olympic Bronze Medalist from Central Alberta shared her journey with a packed house

Humboldt survivors to attend NHL Awards

Players say it’s a blessing to be back together again

Justice minister: marijuana still illegal for now

Driving under the influence of drugs has always been — and will remain — against the law

Crown recommends 150 years for Quebec mosque shooter

Crown lawyers say Alexandre Bissonnette deserves to receive the longest sentence in Canadian history

192 missing after ferry sinks in Indonesia

Divers are searching an Indonesian lake after a ferry sank earlier this week

No clear plan yet on how to reunite parents with children

A lawyer has documented more than 300 cases of adults who have been separated from a child

Senate officially passes Canada’s marijuana legalization bill

Bill C-45 now moves to royal assent, which is the final step in the legislative process

New GOP plan: Hold kids longer at border – but with parents

Move would ease rules that limit how much time minors can be held with their parents

Most Read