Miss America is ditching their swimsuits and evening ball gowns in a move to ‘evolve with the culture.’
The organization announced Tuesday they will “no longer judge contestants based on physical appearance” and will now be called a “competition” instead of a “pageant.”
Instead of the swimsuit portion, contestants will now take part in a live interactive session with the judges. The organization also says instead of evening ball gowns, contestants can wear attire that makes them feel confident and shows off their personal style.
Former Miss America Gretchen Carlson, who is taking on the role of chair of the Board of Trustees, told Good Morning America that the organization wants to give women a chance to celebrate who they are, not just what they look like.
“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,’ so guess what, you don’t have to do that anymore,” Carlson said.
She continued, “Who doesn’t want to be empowered, learn leadership skills and pay for college and be able to show the world who you are as a person from the inside of your soul. That’s what we’re judging them on now.”
Carlson also said that she hopes the revamped competition will be more inclusive and transparent.
“We want you and we want to celebrate your accomplishments and your talents and then we want to hand you scholarships,” she said.
700 Club Co-Host Terry Meeuswen, who was crowned Miss America in 1973, said getting rid of the swimsuit portion was “long overdue.”
“I don’t think the pageant has ever overtly pressured girls to look a certain way,” Meeuwsen said. “But I do think contestants feel their own pressure to measure up to the standard of the day as far as what defines beauty.”
Meeuwsen says making it more about the competition is the right move.
“This is an interview for a high paying job,” Meeuwsen said. “So candidates vie in competition for the position and the opportunity to have a platform for their concerns, amazing experience opportunities, and a microphone to express their ideas and interests.”
Next year’s Miss America Competition will take place Sunday, Sept. 9, at 9 p.m. and aired live on ABC.