Swimsuit competitions will no longer be a part of Miss America Organization, ending one of the most divisive, yet enduringly popular, elements of the show.
Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America who now heads the organization’s board of trustees, made the announcement Tuesday on Good Morning America, saying “We’re not going to judge you on your appearance because we are interested in what makes you you.”
Swimsuits have been a part of Miss America for nearly 100 years and date back to the competition’s beginning. But that portion of the show has increasingly been seen as outdated, especially in an age where sexual harassment and misconduct is increasingly being put into the spotlight.
That spotlight hasn’t spared the Miss America organization, either. Last December, former Miss America officials disparaging the weight and sexual activity of former title winners in a series of emails. When those came out, it resulted in an executive housecleaning. Carlson took over in early January, promptly naming three former Miss Americas—Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss (2012), Heather French Henry (2000) and Kate Shindle (1998)—to the board.
Carlson said contestants made it clear they didn’t want to be seen in high heels and swimsuits, and she said she did not hesitate to make the change. Carlson said she’s not worried about ratings falling with the change, either, citing Miss America data showing that the talent competition is the highest rated part of the show.
Changes are coming to the evening wear portion of the show, as well, said Carlson, with a renewed focus not on appearance, but on the person.
“It’s what comes out of their mouths that we care about,” she said.
The next Miss America contest will be held on September 9.