Gretchen Carlson Wants Miss America To Empower Women. Here’s What That Might Look Like.

“We formed a collective voice and look where we are today."

The Miss America Organization is nearly 100 years old and, in the opinion of Gretchen Carlson, is overdue for some real change. The former Fox News anchor has taken over as chairwoman after former ex-CEO Sam Haskell resigned in the wake of an email scandal, and she has some plans "to make this organization 100 percent about empowering women."

Carlson, who herself was crowned Miss America in 1989, stepped into the leadership position after Haskell and other top execs had emails leaked to HuffPost. These emails — which Haskell has downplayed in statements — revealed an underbelly of alleged sexism and lewd comments about its past contestants and winners, catching the attention of Carlson, who has been outspoken about the #MeToo movement after exposing Roger Ailes in 2016.

"Look at what happened when that gift of courage kept being passed on to one woman, to another, to another," Carlson, who was named chairwoman on January 1, told ABC News in regards to her own story and how she is part of the change. "We formed a collective voice and look where we are today, in a tsunami. The same thing will happen with the Miss America Organization."

Carlson said she was shocked when the Miss America scandal broke but — given what has been happening as of late — it's her opinion that "this kind of behavior is prevalent, unfortunately." The 51-year-old said she "felt compelled" to take on the high-profile volunteer role — on a board now consisting of all former contestants, something Carlson sees as "poetic justice" — at Miss America because it was a "call of duty" for her.

"I have so many great ideas for this organization, and I will be talking about all of those with all the other board members and the eventual CEO and staff of Miss America," Carlson added, teasing "potentially big changes" on the horizon. "So what I would love to say about that is please stay tuned because I plan to make this organization 100 percent about empowering women."

Carlson, the first former Miss America winner to helm the organization, said she is open to reevaluate some of the pageant's restrictions — such as age, marital status, and pregnancy — and thinks it's "fantastic" it had its first openly lesbian contestant. In fact, Carlson said the transgender community has already reached out to her. This would continue to make this institution progressive, as it seems to be embracing that more so these days.

Going forward, this is Carlson's modus operandi: "I am open to speaking to every single person who wants to have a voice."

Cover image via Debby Wong / Shutterstock

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