Every September, 51 women from across the United States compete for a coveted crown that will render them Miss America. Up until very recently (read: today), part of this competition entailed being judged on physical appearance. But this morning it was announced that Miss America's swimsuit portion will be no more moving forward, signaling a huge step forward for the contest.
When Miss America first originated in 1921 it was a "bathing beauty revue." In other words, contestants were solely judged on their looks. Margaret Gorman, the first-eve Miss America, was even eventually named “The Most Beautiful Bathing Girl in America.” Of course, the contest has greatly evolved since then, having included talent and question portions. The swimwear and evening gown categories, however, still reduced contestants down to their looks.
Today, Gretchen Carlson, the chairwoman of Miss America, announced on Good Morning America that the event will no longer include a swimsuit portion and that contestants may wear "whatever they choose" during the evening gown portion. (Are you guys ready to see some killer formal suits, because I definitely am!)"We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance. That's huge," she said on the show.
To announce the monumental change, Miss America's official Twitter account posted a video showing a white bikini that dissolves into a cloud of smoke, after which the words, "Miss America 2.0 2019" and the hashtag "#byebyebikini" come into focus. It's huge that a woman's body is no longer a determining factor in regard to whether or not she's the right person to represent an organization that describes itself as "a movement of empowering young women everywhere to achieve their dreams by providing quality scholarship assistance and honoring their commitment to helping others," as written on the Miss America website.
What's more, Carlson said that the competition will embrace contestants of "all shapes and sizes"—if you look at who has taken to their stage in the past, you'll notice body inclusivity has sadly not been part of Miss America's history.
As CNN writes, "The big changes to Miss America had been expected since the Miss America organization is now being led entirely by women for the first time." Carlson, a former Fox News host, was named chairwoman in December; Regina Hopper, former CEO of Intelligent Transportation Society of America, was recently named president and CEO of the Miss America Organization; and Marjorie Vincent-Tripp, an assistant attorney general at the Florida Office of the Attorney General, was named as chair of the Board of Trustees of the Miss America Foundation.
In December, the previous leaders of the Miss America Organization resigned after the Huffington Post revealed that higher-ups and employees had exchanged emails in which they discussed the weight and sex lives of contestants. Hopefully, this is the ushering in of a brighter, more respectful, and less sexist era.
Another interesting fact about the three new leaders is that they are all former Miss America pageant winners. Hopper was Miss Arkansas in 1983, Vincent-Tripp was Miss America in 1991, and Carlson was Miss America in 1989.
It's so important that contests and events such as this finally catch up with the times. A woman's worth is not based on her body, her hair, what dress she's wearing or how high her heels are. It's based on her brains, her drive, her desire to affect positive change, and the ways in which she can contribute to and improve society. That is the type of woman that I believe deserves the title of Miss America and I hope the organization truly believes that, too. Time will tell—the next Miss America competition is September 9 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. For the first time in my life, I just might tune in.