Miss America Organization Says “Bye Bye Bikinis”, Gets Rid of Swimsuit Competition
They also changed the name of the competition and changed the ruled for the evening gown competition
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Sydney Hella has been competing in pageants for years and says it’s what has challenged her and given her the confidence to become the woman she is now.
That includes learning to walk across a stage in a bikini and heels for judges, despite having what she says isn’t your “typical pageant body.”
“I’m a size eight, I’m not one of those tiny girls and I won my state pageant as a teen wearing a one piece swimsuit on stage versus there were a lot of girls that were very in shape and they wore a bikini,” Hella said.
Hella says she won her title of Miss Teen Minnesota Earth 2018 because the judges noticed her confidence, not her body. That’s why she was surprised to hear the Miss America Organization scrapped their swimsuit part of their competition.
“I think that what they’re saying is that ‘we’re trying to change this because this was objectifying women’ when that shouldn’t have been the case in the first place,” Hella said.
The Miss America Organization said “bye bye bikinis” as a way to stop judging contestants on their physical appearance. But some say that part of the contest was never meant to be about looks.
“I don’t care if you’re a size 12, 16, eight or a size two. You get up on the stage and you rock your swimsuit and you walk with confidence, you’re going to do well. Typically the women that we see are not all different sizes which is why I think swimsuit gets the bad reputation,” said Jennifer Toso-Kenna, state director for Miss Earth United States.
But for those who don’t have the same level of confidence yet, some say the change could be a good start at helping them feel comfortable in their own skin.
“The swimsuit portion can be very intimidating. I think this can make girls feel like ‘I can do this’, that I can compete, I have something to contribute. People will look at for me my accomplishments and not just the size and shape of my body,” said Kathy Jones, executive director of the Miss North Dakota Scholarship Organization.
The evening gown part of the competition has also been scrapped so women can choose whether they want to wear an evening dress, cocktail dress or pantsuit. The organization is also changing their name to the Miss America competition instead of pageant.
“If you tell someone you’ve competed in a pageant, there’s a certain stereotype that people attach to that, whereas if you say ‘I’m competing in a scholarship competition’, that sets a whole different tone,” Jones said.
A tone some say needs to change in society as well.
“It’s not only boys that objectify women. It’s other women too and a lot of times, it comes from a place of insecurity or not feeling comfortable to do that yourself,” Hella said. “It’s about the platform, it’s about the community service, it’s about being a good public speaker more than it is how you look in a swimsuit.”
This is the first time the Miss America Organization has been entirely run by women.
Gretchen Carlson was competing as Miss Minnesota when she was crowned Miss America in 1989.
Carlson took over as CEO for the organization when Sam Haskell resigned for sending vulgar emails about former contestants.