Changes to the Miss America competition, no longer called a pageant, will likely impact state competitions in the coming year — only after what could be the Miss Florida Pageant’s final swimsuit round taking place at the end of this month.
Tuesday, Gretchen Carlson, chairwoman of the Miss America Organization proclaimed a new view that promotes intelligence over physical appearance-- including elimination of the swimsuit round.
Carlson said in an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America Tuesday morning, “We are not going to judge your outward appearance.” She continued, “We are moving it forward and evolving it in this cultural revolution.”
Mary Sullivan, Executive Director of the Miss Florida Pageant Association, said “Whatever the Miss America organization dictates to its state organizations as part of the process, we will have to abide by.”
Sullivan said they are unsure of specific ramifications for Miss Florida’s future.
However, she expressed concerns about a weakened focus on the importance of physical fitness.
“I don’t think you should ever downgrade physical fitness in any, any way. Whether it be in a swimsuit competition or whether it be in our daily lives,” she said. “Physical fitness is something that we all need every day to remain strong and able to do our job.”
The Miss Florida Pageant Association works to influence young women to be their best selves according to Sullivan.
She said physical fitness is a part of that.
She continued, “We need to be our best with our physical appearance. That’s something everyone should strive for.”
She said the organization has worked many years over to uphold their tradition of preparing young women for their future, whether as a career woman or a homemaker.
“If, in the long run, it proves that it’s going to bring more young women into the organization and give more young women the opportunity for advancement and scholarship then, I guess, we will all adjust to that way of thinking,” Sullivan said.
Other members of the pageant world are excited for a renewed focus on inner beauty.
Dawn Raney, a Jacksonville resident, is a former Miss Tennessee and former contestant in Miss Alabama. She’s happy to see that the swimsuit portion scrapped from future programs.
Raney holds the view that physical fitness cannot be judged based on a contestant’s looks.
She wrote in an email to WJCT News, “Genetically, some girls are just naturally thinner and some girls aren’t. I was naturally thin, but I wasn’t physically fit. I knew plenty of girls who starved themselves (or worse) to look good in that darn swimsuit. Physical fitness is not how a person looks in a swimsuit!”
She believes the revamped competition will allow more young women to enjoy the experience. “Taking the swimsuit competition out will allow more young ladies to feel comfortable with putting themselves out there no matter what size they are,” Raney said.
With the future of the Miss Florida Pageant not quite clear, the association’s focus remains on the upcoming competition at the end of the month, said Sullivan.
Several of this year’s Miss Florida contestants are Jacksonville natives.
Sullivan said her primary concern is making the Miss Florida 2019 Pageant, with preliminary rounds beginning on June 26th in Lakeland, the best experience for all contestants.
Alexandra Blackwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 904-358-6316.