'Miss America' Receives Makeover, Will No Longer Feature Swimsuit Competition

"We are no longer a pageant; we are a competition. We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance."

As more organizations take a stand against misogyny and sexual harassment, the Miss America organization has made an undeniable statement by officially eliminating its swimsuit competition. Miss America competitors will no longer have to parade around the stage in a swimsuit and high heels as they pursue the title role of reigning champion.

"We are no longer a pageant; we are a competition," Gretchen Carlson, new chair of the Miss America organization, announced Tuesday on Good Morning America. "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."

Instead, the competition will emphasize renewed focus on its desire to provide scholarships and honor talent.

"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,'" Carlson told ABC's Amy Robach. "So guess what? You don't have to do that anymore. You're welcome. Please come join us."

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In the same vein, the Miss America organization also plans to eliminate the evening gown portion of the competition and, instead, ask contestants to wear attire that makes them feel confident, expresses their personal style, and shows how they hope to advance the role of Miss America. Carlson, who won the competition in 1989, hopes that these sweeping changes will not only alter preconceived perceptions of the competition, but also resonate more with younger audiences as they come of age in the midst of the #MeToo Movement.

"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," Carlson added. "We want you and we want to celebrate your accomplishments and your talents and then we want to hand you scholarships."

Carlson stands as one of the leading voices of the #MeToo Movement, as she sued her former employer, Fox News, over sexual harassment nearly two years ago — well before the others began to speak out about similar physical, mental, and emotional abuses.

"This is a new beginning and change can sometimes be difficult but I know a lot about change," Carlson said. "My life has worked in mysterious ways. I never thought I'd be the chairwoman of the Miss America Organization, but here I am and we're moving it forward and we're evolving in this cultural revolution."

While viewers are still wary of these changes, as they don't guarantee that audiences will see an array of body sizes and types being celebrated on-screen, the decision to remove the misogynistic element of the show marks a distinct departure from the patriarchal norms that have drawn harsh criticism in the past. But, considering neither the swimsuit nor the gown competitions were the highest-rated portions of the program, the changes received little resistance within the organization. Enlightened audiences and potential competitors have already embraced the #MeToo era. Now the Miss America organization has, too.

Cover image via  Everett Collection I Shutterstock

(H/T: Good Morning America)

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