“We are no longer a pageant.” Those are the words of Gretchen Carlson. She is a former Miss America who has been named the chair of the Miss America Organization’s Board of Trustees. As the former queen told Good Morning America, “We’re a competition now.”
That’s because almost a century after the first Miss America contest, the entrants will not be judged based on their physical appearance. In fact, the swimsuit and evening gown part of the competition has been scrapped completely. Instead, organizers for the contests told contestants to wear whatever makes them feel comfortable and reflects that woman’s personal style.
Going forward, representatives from all 50 states and the District of Columba will interact with the judges to replace the physical appearance portions of the competition. Based on these interactions, judges will take the contestant’s passion, intelligence, and their grasp of Miss America’s duties into consideration when choosing a victor.
One of the largest measuring sticks is to see how the contestants talk about the “social impact initiatives” set forth by the Miss America Organization. Former winner, Carlson, stated, “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,’ so guess what, you don’t have to do that anymore. 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?”
These changes come on the heels of the #MeToo Movement. Carlson herself has stepped forward as a victim. In 2016, the 1989 Miss America filed a lawsuit against FOX News Chairman and CEO, Roger Ailes. As Carlson recalled, “I could have never expected what would happen when I sued my former employer at Fox News for sexual harassment 22 months ago, but look what has happened. Thousands of women have been inspired to know that they can stand up and speak up and their voices will be heard. If I’ve been a beacon of hope to any woman in that process, it has been worth it.”
While the #MeToo movement has taken center stage in Hollywood and politics, it blew up earlier this year in the Miss America camp. That’s because internal e-mails were leaked that revealed the organization’s CEO, Sam Haskell, had insulted the women who performed in this competition, including taking shots at their looks. Following the revelation, the Miss America Organization decided to anoint all females to their board.
As Carlson continued, “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. We want you and we want to celebrate your accomplishments and your talents and then we want to hand you scholarships.”
If you want to check out the 2019 Miss America Competition, it will air live on ABC on Sunday, September 9, at 9 p.m. EST.