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miss america

By Amy Donohoe

After much controversy, the Miss America pageant is defining its role in an era of female empowerment and gender equality by scrapping it’s swimsuit competition.

This change is due to the new chairwoman and previous contestant, Gretchen Carlson, who once sued Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes for sexual harassment in 2016. She became one of the most outspoken advocates for victims during the #MeToo era.

It was announced that the competition would cut the swimsuit and evening gown parts of the contest and replace them with a “live interaction session with the judges” where the contestant “will highlight her achievements and goals in life.”


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The Miss America competition began in Atlantic City in 1921 – one year after women gained the right to vote in the United States. It first launched as a swimsuit pageant to promote Atlantic City beaches. As the years went on, the winner of the swimsuit competition became a good indicator of who was likely to overall.

I believe that Miss America needs to be modernised and relate to young women. They should focus on the career achievements of past winners and the swimsuit competition could be a distraction from that message.

According to pageant coach Valerie Hayes, Miss America executives have had discussions about eliminating the segment for many years, and the introduction of new leadership provided the perfect opportunity – mainly because the nine members of the board of directors, seven which are women united and approved the change in March.

These women understand the pressure of appearing on television in a bikini. Pageant enrolment numbers dropped in recent years, as many young women are hesitance to wear a swimsuit onstage in the social media era, when the image will be immediately circulated and judged and where there's a lot of pressure on body image to be a particular way.


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The financial aspect for the organisation may improve as some sponsors didn’t want to associate with a pageant that featured a degrading swimsuit competition. Its one of many remarkable changes that has been repeated through Hollywood, politics and workplaces around the world. It broadened the conversation from sexual harassment to the way that women’s bodies are viewed.

It seems that #MeToo has done what a protest could not: eliminate one of the most ridicule aspects of the competition.The swimsuit competition will not be missed and Miss America is a small step to help lead the way. More women may participate, even if they don’t fit the stereotypical image of a size-zero pageant winner as it’s now a leadership and academic achievement program.

On social media, the organisation already has a new hashtag for the occasion: #byebyebikini. Their new motto is “To prepare great women for the world, and to prepare the world for great women.” And its website indicated a broad rebranding effort: “Miss America 2.0. Coming soon: New website. New show. New experience.”

Although women should be comfortable in their own bodies whatever their shape or size,I don’t think that's what the competition embraced. Now, they’re no longer judging women on their clothes or their irrelevant talents. They’re going to judge them on what they say and their social impact initiatives.


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Miss America both state and national competitions were the largest source of scholarship money for women in the U.S., yet the necessary requirements were physical, not intellectual. In 1968, the Miss America pageant was confronted with a protest on the Atlantic City boardwalk: 100 feminists threw bras, girdles, curling irons, false eyelashes and other “instruments of female torture” into a trash can labelled “Freedom.”

Until 1940, it was written in the guidelines that contestants must be “of good health and of the white race.” The organisation would not have its first African-American winner until Vanessa Williams earned the 1984 crown. Old fashioned pageantry is dying off and the people who enjoy it aren’t developing along with our modern day world.

Like most things, pageants need to grow with the times. It’s a small step towards a cultural revolution. The people at home want a well-rounded, relatable human being as their winner, they want a role-model, someone they can aspire to be.

Antonia Okafor said “I didn't mind the swimsuit competition when I was in pageants. But it was used to body shame us. I used to shrug off the feminists who made a big deal about the swimsuit competition in pageants being sexist; I believed my mentors in the pageant world that, like in bodybuilding competitions, swimsuits just allowed contestants to show off their inner confidence and judges to assess our physical fitness.

'But after participating in pageants, I’ve realised that the idea that the swimsuit segment is just about fitness is completely false: It’s about whether or not you fit a certain, antiquated ideal of the “perfect woman.”


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Both Miss World and Miss International don’t include swimsuits in their competitions, instead they focus on fitness wear or sports to see how athletic a contestant really is rather than making the contestants reveal their bodies. Feminism and femininity can go hand in hand, but neither suggests that you have to look "good" in a swimsuit. It’s outdated and degrading.

Miss America have produced two candidates, Erika Harold and Mallory Hagan, who are both currently running for public office. It will continue to produce educated, brave, confident young women who set goals and achieve them, and women who encourage other women instead of tearing them down. And it will set the stage for other systems to make the necessary changes they need but are too afraid to implement.

“Speaking for myself, when I competed 20 years ago, I found the swimsuit competition oddly empowering, because once I could walk across the stage in a two-piece swimsuit and high heels I could do just about anything,” said Kate Shindle, the 1998 Miss America who is now a board member of the organisation.

“But I also don’t think I processed everything at the time. It’s strange — it gives strangers a kind of ownership over your body that you don’t quite anticipate.” Some former contestants have spoken out against the swimsuit competition, saying it led to serious physical and mental problems.

Although women should be proud of their body, the competition objectifies women more than it empowers them.

A woman’s goals and aspirations are far more important than how she looks in a swimsuit.



This week, it was announce that Miss America will be abolishing their swimsuit section.  

Gretchen Carlson announced that the move is first step to bringing the competition up to date.

However, not everyone agreed with the move, including our own Miss Universe Ireland Cailín Áine Ní Toibín.

The Cork native represented Ireland in the Miss Universe competition in 2017, and placed in the top 16 contestants. 

'I have debated writing about this since I found out that Miss America will be taking out the bikini portion of their competition because I was so confused as to why would they do that and wanted to curate an honest opinion. In all the times I have had to wear a bikini for a shoot or on stage I have not once felt sexualised,' the model and pageant enthusiast wrote on her Instagram.

'I have felt confident, strong, beautiful and empowered! I as a woman shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of my body and whether I want to wear something fully covered or a regular bikini I shouldn’t have to feel ashamed or judged for what I want to wear. I feel the days of the bikini section objectifying women is outdated, women today want to embrace their bodies on stage and feel strong and empowered when stepping on stage because of the hard work they have put into their fitness and health.'

'Who ever said you can’t be sexy and intelligent? I feel that removing the bikini section from Miss America is one I don’t understand as a pageant perspective but Miss America has always stated they are a scholarship program NOT a pageant therefore they have different values, focus and goals for the women who compete.'

'I personally don’t follow Miss America as much a I do Miss Universe but I feel that if it is in line with their core values to take out he bikini portion than so be it.'

'They are evolving as a new brand and with a new board of management I feel they need to figure out what is the new Era of Miss America and this is one of their new ventures.'

'Lastly I feel that regardless of what we wear on our bodies we are INTELLIGENT, STRONG and AMAZING women! We need to end shaming women for how they want to be perceived.'

Back in November, Cailin also hailed the bikini section as a segment that celebrates diversity and confidence. 

'So many people criticise the bikini section of a pageant and say it’s “old fashioned” I don’t think so not even remotely,' she wrote at the time. 

'Bikini isn’t judged on your physique it’s judged on confidence and how you are in your own body regardless of your shape or size it’s about being confidently beautiful no matter how you step on stage. Not one single woman in @missuniverse was the same shape, size or nationality as another and to me it is amazing to step on stage and be so proud of my body and how hard I’ve worked to understand it as a whole.'

'I am comfortable with all my lumps, bumps and scars and so should everyone else when it comes to their body, it is so revitalising to show the world I am who I am regardless of what I’m wearing.' 



Miss America has something of a stereotypical reputation for being a beauty contest. 

However, since Gretchen Carlson took over the  board for the organisation, it has been hoped that she will take the competition in a more respectful and serious direction. 

Ms Carlson was the Miss America winner in 1989, and is a vocal activist for women's rights. 

She announced this week that the first step to bringing the competition up to date will be to get rid of their swimsuit section.


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'We are no longer a pageant, we are a competition,' she told Good Morning America. 

'We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance, and that means that we will no longer have a swimsuit competition and that is official.'

'We will no longer be judging women when they come out in their chosen attire. Whatever they chose to do, it will be what comes out of their mouth that we're interested in.'

Speaking on what women will be represented in the contest, she continued: 

'We are interested in what makes you, you.'

'At the end of the day, we hand out scholarships to these women, we want more women to know that they are welcome in this organisation.'

However, not all viewers of Miss America were thrilled with the change. 

'Miss America can be intelligent, healthy and beautiful, so why are we so ashamed in celebrating the beauty as a society nowadays?' commented one fan. 'Now its setting a bad example to women that they can only be one. Be proud of your beauty and healthy body and intelligence, we can do it all . Not a fan of this change it goes against women empowerment.'

'Bye bye ratings. Another example of "political correctness" making things worse not better,' said another. 

Others supported the change, commenting: 'Today ushers in a new era… where women don't need to wear their swimsuits on television to be recognised as leaders, as philanthropists, as role models.'

Others are accusing the move as being reactionary to the email scandal which rocked the pageant last December. 

At the time, it was discovered that the former chief executive Sam Haskell had made misogynistic comments about former winners.



Although she didn't win the title of Miss America, Maragana Wood's comments about Donald Trump definitely stole the show.

Twitter users have praised the Miss Texas competitor after she condemned the US President for his less than adequate response to the Charlottesville violence.

During the question and answer section of the pageant, Maragana was asked about the white supremacist rally that took place last month.

The host referred specifically to the comments made by Trump in which he stated that there was shared blame with “very fine people on both sides.”

She was then asked is she agreed with the statement and to explain her answer.

“I think that the white supremacist issue – it was very obvious that it was a terrorist attack,” she said.

“I think that President Donald Trump should have made a statement earlier addressing the fact, and making sure that all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the number one issue right now.”

Her quick response was met with cheers from the audience and of course, social media erupted with support fo the Miss America contestent. 


Erin O'Flaherty was crowned Miss Missouri last weekend in the United States, and made history in the process.

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Erin, 23, is the first ever openly gay contestant to take part in the Miss America pageant, and with a name like that, it would be hard to deny her Irish roots. 

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Erin, who came out when she was 18, has Irish heritage on both sides of her family, and we are chuffed to call her one of us. 

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This red-haired beauty was crowned Miss Missouri last week, and is set to take part in the Miss America contest tonight, in the hopes she'll be crowned the first openly gay winner. 

Erin is a college graduate, with a degree in legal studies. She also owns a boutique clothing shop, Rachel’s Grove in St. Louis, with her mum, aunt and sister. 

When asked about her win, Erin said "I'm on cloud nine really just to be Miss Missouri. I don't know that I intended to be the first gay contestant but I am. So I'm very excited about it.”

Erin, who was raised on a farm, spoke to the Associated Press ahead of the competition, which started earlier this week.

"I knew going in that I had the opportunity to make history. Now I get to be more visible to the community and meet more people."

The Miss America competition will air this evening in the United States, and we are TEAM MISSOURI! 




Everyone knows and loves the “Cup” song – especially when done by Anna Kendrick!

However, when Miss New York, Kira Kazantsev, decided doing cups to Pharrell Williams' Happy was a good idea, the world disagreed. A lot.

When Kira went on to win the Miss America competition things just got even worse, and people can be really harsh!

Even Anna had a say on the whole thing, although she was nice about it…

 Things then took an even more embarrassing turn when the caption underneath Kira, which was supposed to relate a fun fact about her read: "Loves anything Jane Austin."

Do you think they meant Jane Austen? Twitter thinks so…