October 22, 2018

Miss America axes swimsuit competition; Gretchen Carlson says ‘We are no longer a pageant’

Gretchen Carlson, who took over as chair of the Miss America Organization Board of Trustees after the group’s email scandal, had a major announcement on Tuesday’s Good Morning America: There will be no more swimsuit competition.

“We are no longer a pageant; we are a competition. We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance,” Carlson told GMA‘s Amy Robach. “That means we will no longer have a swimsuit competition.”

Carlson said the evening gown portion of the program will be revamped. “We’re no longer judging women when they come out in their chosen attire — their evening wear, whatever they choose to do. It’s gonna be what comes out of their mouth that we’re interested in, when they talk about their social impact initiatives.”

Carlson, who was awarded the Miss America crown in 1989, said this was a board decision. She acknowledged “change can sometimes be difficult,” but said she was excited for the competition to be “evolving in this cultural revolution.”

Carlson said she is hopeful this pivot will attract candidates of all shapes and sizes.

“We are now open, inclusive and transparent, and I want to inspire thousands of young people across this country to come and be a part of our program,” she said, “because we want you and we want to celebrate your accomplishments and your talents.”

“We’ve heard from a lot of young women who say, ‘We’d love to be a part of your program, but we don’t want to be out there in high heels and a swimsuit,’ ” she continued. “So guess what? You don’t have to do that anymore. You’re welcome. Please come join us.”

Emphasizing the benefits of the program, Carlson said: “Who doesn’t want to be empowered, learn leadership skills and pay for college and be able to show the world who you are as a person from the inside of your soul?”

In December, vulgar emails about former Miss America contestants by the group’s leadership caused a shake-up in the organization. Three high-profile figures resigned: its former executive chairman and CEO, Sam Haskell; Lynn Weidner, who acted as chair of the board; and COO Josh Randle.

After the content of their emails was published, Carlson, a target herself, expressed her disappointment on Twitter. “As a proud former Miss America and former member of the Board of the Miss America Organization, I am shocked and deeply saddened by the disgusting statements about women attributed to the leadership of the MAO,” she tweeted in December. “No woman should be demeaned with such vulgar slurs.”

The 2019 Miss America Competition will broadcast live on Sept. 9 on ABC.

Source: USA TODAY

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