Miss America Pageant to drop swimsuit competition

Posted: Updated:
ATLANTIC CITY -

Gretchen Carlson, the chairwoman of the Miss America Organization, announced Tuesday that this year's pageant will not include the swimsuit portion. 

Carlson, a former Miss America and the plaintiff in a sexual harassment lawsuit that led to the ouster of former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes, says some potential contestants had said they didn't want to wear high heels and skimpy bathing suits.

According to the Associated Press, when the Miss America pageant started in 1921, having young women wear bathing suits seemed like a great way to get tourists to come to the Atlantic City Boardwalk after Labor Day.

But how America views women has changed drastically since then, and the Miss America Organization is run by women. One of them is Carlson, whose case against Ailes exemplifies the #MeToo era.

Not all of the women involved support the move, however.

Reigning Miss New Jersey Kaitlyn Schoeffel says she felt empowered during the swimsuit competition. She says it inspired her to be physically fit and is an important tradition in the pageant's Atlantic City history.

"I was really disappointed in the decision," she says. 

And Chhavi Verg, the first runner-up in last year's Miss USA Pageant, says she feels the same way.

"My first time wearing a bikini in my life was when I competed for Miss New Jersey USA, the year that I won," she says. "My parents are pretty conservative and didn't allow me to before that."

But she says the organization's decision to end the tradition is still a positive move.

"It just goes to show that you don't need to look a certain way to fulfill that duty of being Miss America," Verg says. "You need to be a role model, an ambassador."

The September pageant will be the first in Miss America's nearly 100-year history without swimsuits.

Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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