The next edition of the Miss America pageant will scrap swimsuits and will be more inclusive to women of all sizes, the contest announced on June 5th. Gretchen Carlson, the chairwoman of the Miss America board of directors, announced on “Good Morning America” that the event will no longer feature a swimsuit portion.
Miss America will be a competition, not a pageant, Carlson said on the show Tuesday. “We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance. That’s huge,” she said. Carlson also said the new Miss America competition will be more inclusive to women of “all shapes and sizes.” The official Miss America Twitter account tweeted a short video of a white bikini going up in a puff of smoke with the hashtag #byebyebikini.
Reacting to the announcement, Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri, the first Indian American and South Asian to win the title of Miss America, took to social media to weigh in on the organization’s decision. “Miss America 2.0 is finally here. Since my time serving as #MissAmerica and beyond, I’ve been fortunate to experience many proud moments in my career & recognition for my advocacy work,” she wrote. “My swimsuit score had nothing to do with any of them.”
Davuluri wrote that she couldn’t be “prouder” to be a part of this evolution. “Today, the @MissAmerica organization moves into an era where we focus on inclusivity & empowerment by emphasizing what truly matters: substance within,” she wrote, adding hashtags like ByeByeBikini and CirclesOfUnity.
When the Miss America pageant started in 1921, having young women parade around in bathing suits seemed like a great way to get tourists to come to the Atlantic City Boardwalk after Labor Day. But how America views women has changed drastically since then, and the Miss America Organization is run by women who don’t think it’s such a hot idea.
Accordingly, when the pageant is held this September, nearly a year into the #MeToo era, it will no longer have a swimsuit competition. “We’re not going to judge you on your appearance because we are interested in what makes you you,” Carlson said in making the announcement June 5 on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” For decades, women’s groups and others had complained that the swimsuit portion was outdated, sexist and more than a little silly.
Instead of showing off in a bathing suit, each contestant will interact with the judges to “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.
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. The talent portion of the contest will remain. “It’s what comes out of their mouths that we care about,” Carlson said.
The Miss America pageant is not the cultural event it once was. The 1988 broadcast was seen by 33.1 million viewers, according to the Nielsen company. Last year, 5.4 million people watched. 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.