On Tuesday, the Miss America Organization announced it was axing the swimsuit and evening gown portions of its annual competition. In an interview with “Good Morning America,” Gretchen Carlson, chair of the Board of Trustees of the Miss America Organization, said the event is no longer a pageant, but a competition and that participants would no longer be judged based on their looks. Watch.
JUST IN: "We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance. That's huge. And that means we will no longer have a swimsuit competition." – @GretchenCarlson on the major changes coming to @MissAmericaOrg https://t.co/ICRIsRN71h pic.twitter.com/IWKcVvCC50
— Good Morning America (@GMA) June 5, 2018
In response, former and current Miss America participants sounded off — some were disappointed in the changes, while others were happy about them. Here are six reactions from both sides of the debate.
1. Miss Cardinal, 2017
In a lengthy Instagram post, Lauren Scott, who was Miss Cardinal 2017, said the swimsuit part of the contest forced her to care for her body and love it. She also wrote that the way the Miss America Organization announced the changes made it sound like women who aren’t stick-thin weren’t welcome on the stage in years past, a notion Scott says is false.
“This change is just reassuring us that it was only ever meant for *skinny* girls,” she wrote. “UNTRUE. It’s about rockin what your momma gave you in EVERY shape and size!!✨”
“WHAT are you telling women when you agree with them that certain shapes just shouldn’t feel confident on stage? Or that this is more ‘fair’ to everyone?” she continued. “You’re literally embracing skinny as the definition of beauty. NOPE NOPE NOPE not ok with me! I hope this change doesn’t cause anyone to question rocking their bikinis this summer. Bikinis are beautiful. Your BODY is beautiful. And nothing should tell you otherwise! 🔥🔥🔥”
2.Miss America, 2014
Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014, wrote that she was excited about the changes.
“Today, the @MissAmerica organization moves into an era where we focus on inclusivity & empowerment by emphasizing what truly matters: substance within,” she wrote in an Instagram post.
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 (👉🏽 for a few). My swimsuit score had nothing to do with any of them. Today, the @MissAmerica organization moves into an era where we focus on inclusivity & empowerment by emphasizing what truly matters: substance within. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this evolution. Ladies involved in #MAO—what is your proudest accomplishment? Comment below & share some substance inspo! #ByeByeBikini #CirclesOfUnity — #MissAmericaStrong #MissAmerica2014 #MissAmerica2.0 #RetiringTheSwimsuit #NewEra #Competition #AtlanticCity #TransformationTuesday #Service #Style #Scholarship #Success #Substance
3. Miss D.C. Participant, 2019
Emily Sanders, who is competing in the Miss District of Columbia this year, said she will miss the swimsuit portion of the competition, but hopes the changes will reduce barriers for women who otherwise could not afford to compete.
“I love working hard and getting to show off my hard work and having that extra motivation,” Sanders said. “At the same time, I do see the problematic side where even thought it is supposed to be about health, you do overanalyze how you look.”
She also said that removing the evening gown and swimsuit portions makes it more affordable for women who might not be able to shell out the cash necessary for these aspects of the competition. After all, Miss America is a scholarship organization.
“I always felt like the system was designed for rich girls to succeed, ones who can afford to be expensive gowns, hire personal trainers, and have endless supply of resources at their disposal,” she said. “For example, in the last 10 years, a Miss Maryland has not used her scholarship money. How crazy is that?”
4. Miss Littleton Area, 2018
Miss Littleton Area, who is vying to be Miss New Hampshire this year, was also happy about the changes.
“The truth is I’ve always loved my body and I am proud of the art I put on it, but the swim suit competition made me feel like I wasn’t good enough to be Miss America all because of the way I look,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “I know I have what it takes to do well in this program and for the first time I feel like it’s possible. ”
5. Miss Georgia Participant, 2016
Katherine McCauley Cordle, who participated in the Miss Georgia pageant in 2016, wrote that altering the fitness portion of the program would’ve been a better solution than dropping it altogether.
“Changing the fitness competition would have been more appropriate than dropping it,” she wrote. “It isn’t suddenly less important to be fit now.”
“Every year I competed I could look around and easily see I was never the thinnest, tallest, or most fit girl on the stage,” she added. “That being said, in the moments when I was in the spot light, I sure did feel like the most beautiful girl in the world. I felt powerful. Invincible. I’m sad to hear the swimsuit portion of the Miss America Pageant has been dropped and the fate of the evening gown is still unclear.”
6. Miss Red Rose City 2018
Jenna Martorana, Miss Red Rose City 2018, said she was relieved the swimsuit portion of the competition was gone from Miss America, but was still anxious about it being a part of Miss Pennsylvania, which she is competing in this year.
“Yes we are told constantly to not compare ourselves to the other contestants but personally I don’t know how to considering that’s what the judges are going to be doing,” Martorana wrote. “I may be a size 2 but with the size 2 comes 4 feet 10 inches of curves! I’ve got a booty and thighs and a chest and I’m okay with that but compared to the girls who are the same size and much taller/thinner I felt like I couldn’t compare to that.”