When 2018 Miss America Cara Mund took to Twitter yesterday to urge fans of the event to tune in to ABC's Good Morning America for some major announcements about this year's edition, she wasn't joking. Miss America Organization Board of Trustees Chair Gretchen Carlson appeared on the highly-rated morning news and entertainment program to announce that the 2019 Miss America Competition would be eliminating the swimsuit competition and revamping the evening wear competiton to allow contestants to choose what best represents them.
Emphasizing that the new Miss America competition would be inclusive to women of "all shapes and sizes," Carlson referenced the change in the event's title as a symbol of how the organization wants Miss America to be viewed moving forward: "We are no longer a pageant. We are a competition. We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance. That's huge."
TUNE IN ALERT- Tuesday, June 5, 2018, @ABCNetwork @GMA at 7:30 AM ET to see @MissAmericaOrg Board of Trustees Chair @GretchenCarlson. Gretchen will be making announcements about the 2019 Miss America Competition which will air live on ABC on September 9, 2018. #MissAmerica pic.twitter.com/1bPD1iu5HT
— The Miss America Org (@MissAmerica) June 5, 2018
— Gretchen Carlson (@GretchenCarlson) June 4, 2018
JUST IN: "We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance. That's huge. And that means we will no longer have a swimsuit competition." – @GretchenCarlson on the major changes coming to @MissAmericaOrg https://t.co/ICRIsRN71h pic.twitter.com/IWKcVvCC50
— Good Morning America (@GMA) June 5, 2018
The Miss America Organization took to Twitter to post a video in support of the announcement: a white bikini that explodes into a puff of smoke, with the hastag #byebyebikini.
— Miss America Org (@MissAmericaOrg) June 5, 2018
"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. 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." – Carlson
The swimsuit competiton will be replaced with a live, interactive session with the judges. During that portion of the competition, contestants will have opportunities to demonstrate "their passion, intelligence and overall understanding of the job of Miss America" in a more free and open exchange. As for the changes to the evening "gown" competition, Carlson revealed that beginning this year contestants will be able to wear "whatever they choose."
"We are now open, inclusive and transparent and I want to inspire thousands of young people across this country to come and be a part of our program. We want you and we want to celebrate your accomplishments and your talents and then we want to hand you scholarships." – Carlson
Changes to the competition come at time when the Miss America Organization is experiencing some historic firsts in female leadership: Carlson, President/CEO Regina Hopper, and Miss America Foundation Board of Trustees Chair Marjorie Vincent-Tripp represent the first time that the Miss America Organization has been led entirely by women. Along with that, all three women are also former pageant winners through the Miss America system: Hopper, former CEO of Intelligent Transportation Society of America, was Miss Arkansas 1983; Vincent-Tripp, an assistant attorney general at the Florida Office of the Attorney General, was Miss America 1991; and Carlson, the advocate and former Fox News host, was Miss America 1989.
Set to air live on ABC on Sunday, September 9, at 9 p.m. ET, the event is finally distancing itself from controversy at the end of 2017 that led to the resignation of the Miss America Organization's previous leaderhip. Media outlets revealed emails that competiton leaders and staff sent disparaging contestants – including numerous references to their personal appearances and sex lives.