Nearly half of Miss America’s board has quit or been forced to resign in the wake of the organization’s decision to eliminate the swimsuit competition from the contest, and 22 state pageant leaders are seeking to oust Chairwoman Gretchen Carlson over concerns about the pageant’s new direction, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Carlson, a former Miss America and an early leader in the #MeToo movement, announced on June 5 that Miss America was dropping the swimsuit and evening-gown competitions and replacing them with an extended onstage interview. She said it was important to make women’s voices heard during a “cultural revolution in our country.”
Some former directors and state pageant heads said they felt pressured by Carlson and other executives to choose to end the swimsuit competition or risk having the pageant not being broadcast on television.
The elimination of the swimsuit competition is testing the ability of a nearly 100-year-old institution to adapt to a fast-changing culture. Miss America started as a swimsuit competition in 1921, at a time when it was considered modern and liberating for women to pose in bathing suits.
The Miss America Organization said in a statement Saturday that the March vote to eliminate the swimsuit portion was unanimous. It said the deal with ABC was finalized in January, two months before the vote.
Miss Tennessee pageant’s co-executive director Allison DeMarcus said she and other state pageant directors were told on a late March conference call with longtime Miss America board member Regina Hopper before the vote that no television partner would want to be associated with a swimsuit competition, given the sensitivities of the #MeToo era. Hopper became the organization’s chief executive in May.