Saturday, June 9, 2018

Miss America In Identity Crisis, An Iconic Era Over?

The current Miss America 2018 Cara Mund may be in favor of eliminating the swimsuit and evening gown competition, but not all former Miss Americas are on board with the controversial decision.

In December 2017, thousands of contestants and titleholders rallied together to sign a petition in wake of the Sam Haskell email scandal that ousted him from his leadership position as CEO. Newly elected chairwoman of the Miss America Organization Gretchen Carlson, Miss America 1989, had championed to save the program and beloved pageant on January 1st. On June 5th, Ms Carlson announced Miss America 2.0 on ET.

And then it became a love-hate relationship overnight.

In the blink of an eye, the pageant was completely turned upside down and stripped of its identity and origins as a bathing suit beauty contest with the announcement of the swimsuit and evening gown elimination. Meaning precisely that the Miss America as we all know and love will cease to exist.

Miss America's decision would take away from one of the hallmarks of the iconic pageant with its emphasis on health and fitness. Miss America 2016, Betty Cantrell, who has been working to advocate for healthy lifestyle initiatives and address pertinent issues such as obesity in Georgia post her reign, views the change as a step backwards and that it shames women in celebrating positive body image.  

Accordingly, in an article from NBC News featuring Ms Cantrell, she stated, "Miss America is about having beauty and brains — it's not about being Miss Businesswoman. It's essentially saying that women shouldn't be proud to be in their own skin. We're telling women to cover up. This is setting women back decades." Furthermore, Cantrell says, "I hope they get the reaction they want but I don’t think that this will help with their ratings. I’m concerned about the future of this organization."

Miss America 2017 Savvy Shields echoed a similar sentiment and felt that she was empowered in all areas of the competition, whether it was the swimsuit or evening gown portion. She shared this message on social media, "It’s my hope that Miss America will continue this legacy of strength. I felt empowered when I was wearing my evening gown, when I was in my swimsuit, when I was in my workout clothes, when I was in business attire and even when I was in sweatpants. Ultimately, empowerment is not what we wear, it’s who we are."

In an Orlando Sentinel interview with Erika Dunlap, Miss America 2004, made a bold statement saying "What does a feminist look like? A feminist is someone who, male or female, wants to position women so that they are powerful and that they have choices. And so, I feel like you can be in a swimsuit and a feminist."

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you can do both. Beauty and brains can indeed go hand in hand.

We took a poll on social media to gather some perspectives on this hot-button issue. The answers? A resounding NO!

Not surprisingly, people like tradition and the aesthetic.

Pageant contestants and the public alike are bewildered by the hasty decision to scrap the most iconic part of the competition and what it was founded on, which is bathing suits. The evening gown is also a hallmark of tradition and what the pageant is most known for, that is, showcasing and celebrating beauty and poise.

Many reported on Twitter, as well, that they vow not to watch this year’s upcoming pageant and that seeing swimsuits parade across the stage is one of the many reasons they tune in. Viewers have lamented that they will miss evening gown because it’s what makes Miss America - it is what you think of - in that crowning moment!

Will #byebyebikini start a revolution, or cause a slow demise of the prestigious program?

Will ratings tank from a rash decision? What do you think?

Disclaimer: Quotations and photos are from different resources.

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