Former Miss America Board Members Claim They Were Pushed Out Over Decision To Ax Swimsuit Competition

Four former Miss America board members say that they were pushed out of their roles over the decision to axe the swimsuit competition.

Behind the scenes drama over Miss America swimsuit competition.
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

Four former Miss America board members say that they were pushed out of their roles over the decision to axe the swimsuit competition.

When it was announced that Miss America would no longer judge contestants on their outward appearance, thus getting rid of the swimwear and evening wear competitions, there were some raised eyebrows. Both the swimwear and evening wear competitions had been an integral part of Miss America for many years.

Weeks later, Chairwoman Gretchen Carlson is under scrutiny for the board’s decision to ax the two competitions from Miss America, reported Newsweek. And even more alarming is that four of the nine board members have recently resigned. A couple people who left their posts on the board claim that they were pushed out, while those who remain on the board claim that the resignations were voluntary.

The four women who are no longer on the board are Kate Shindle, Laura Kaeppler Fleiss, Jennifer Vaden Barth, and Valerie Crooker Clemens. The four reportedly posted on a private Facebook group about their side of the story. Barth and Clemens said that “neither of us resigned voluntarily,” while Fleiss said that “I stepped away from a board that I felt had become incredibly toxic.” Shindle also shed more light on the issue, according to Page Six.

“Many of us. . . ­expressed concern that we were expected to be a rubber-stamp board. . . I felt that our good-faith attempts to practice oversight were characterized as destructive, hostile and/or unappreciative.”

Now, those who are left on the board have a different version of the story to tell. They said that Barth and Clemens left voluntarily, while Fleiss and Schindle were opposing the chairwoman and “maintained an adversarial tone that permeated every discussion and decision.” Arguably, maintaining a different viewpoint than others is not a good enough reason to oust people from the board.

The official explanation was posted as follows.

“Despite assertions you may have heard, the swimsuit decision was made unanimously by the board, including the former trustees. Any attempt to portray that decision as one made on an uninformed or misinformed basis is false.”

This division and varied account of events cast a new shadow over Miss America, as people now question who really made the decision to change the competition. Reigning Miss USA Sarah Rose Summers recently defended the swimsuit competition, saying that “It’s just exciting and it’s empowering to be able to confidently stand on that stage and just have fun in the swimsuit.”

“It takes confidence unlike anything else — true confidence — not just on the outside that you’re exuding to the judges and the audience and the millions of people watching at home, but inner confidence,” Summers elaborated.

Regardless of the new controversy, it appears unlikely that the upcoming Miss America competition will change their minds about judging their contestants on their outward appearance. Although embraced by some as being a positive change as part of the #MeToo movement, others question if the board is taking it too far and disrupting traditions needlessly.