Miss America drops swimsuit portion and won't judge on looks
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — The Miss America pageant is dropping the swimsuit competition, saying it will no longer judge contestants on their appearance but on "what makes you you."
The pageant began nearly 100 years ago as a bathing-beauty contest to keep tourists coming to this seaside resort after Labor Day. But in recent decades, women's groups and others have complained that making contestants parade across the stage in bathing suits and high heels is outdated, sexist and more than a little silly.
The announcement today came after a shake-up at the Miss America Organization that resulted in the top three leadership positions being held by women. The overhaul was triggered by an email scandal last December in which Miss America officials denigrated winners' intelligence, appearance and sex lives.
"We're not going to judge you on your appearance because we are interested in what makes you you," Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America who became head of the organization's board of trustees in the wake of the scandal, said in making the announcement on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Carlson, whose sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes led to his departure, said the board had heard from potential contestants who lamented, "We don't want to be out there in high heels and swimsuits."
"Guess what?" she said. "You don't have to anymore."
In place of the swimsuit competition, contestants will participate in an interactive session with the judges "where she will highlight her achievements and goals in life and how she will use her talents, passion, and ambition to perform the job of Miss America," the organization said in a statement.
Carlson said the evening-wear portion of the competition will also be changed to allow women to wear something other than a gown if they want. The talent portion of the contest will remain.