Miss America is set for a complete transformation.
The almost century-long beauty pageant, which originated back in 1921 as a “bathing beauty revue” in Atlantic City, is now under female leadership for the first time since its inception. The MeToo movement, which took down many alleged sexual predators in Hollywood, also revealed glaring sexism among the top brass of the Miss America Organization at the end of last year.
Gretchen Carlson, the chairwoman of the Miss America board of directors, who was joined by Regina Hopper as the CEO of the organization just last month, announced on Good Morning America that the competition is going to scrap the swimsuit section for good.
“We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance. That’s huge.”
Stressing that the competition seeks to empower women by focusing on the idea that beauty is not to do with external appearances alone, Carlson also said that Miss America will now be open to women of “all shapes and sizes” — breaking with a long tradition which focused exclusively on well-toned bodies and a certain commitment to the “male gaze.”
On Tuesday morning, the official Miss America Twitter account of the competition’s current winner, Cara Mund, posted a short animation of a white bikini going up in a puff of smoke with the hashtag #byebyebikini.
Not only that, Miss America is also transforming the evening gown portion of the event, with participants now allowed to wear any attire that makes them feel comfortable and confident. Carlson insisted that the organization intends to judge its participants by their ideas and worldview rather than simply on how attractive they are.
“It’s going to be what comes out of their mouth that we’re interested in when we talk about their social impact initiatives,” she said.
Carlson, a former Miss America herself, was one of the early and prominent advocates of women fighting workplace harassment when she spoke out and sued her former boss, Roger Ailes of Fox News, in 2016 for sexual harassment. Her speaking out, coupled with some outstanding journalism, helped usher in the MeToo movement which encouraged a lot of women to share their experiences against everyday harassment in workplaces from Hollywood to Washington.
“Thousands of women have been inspired to know that they can stand up and speak up and their voices can be heard,” Carlson added. “And if I’ve been a beacon of hope to any woman in that process, it will have been worth it.”