Miss America Eliminates Swimsuit Competition: 'We Are No Longer a Pageant'
"We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance," Gretchen Carlson said of the Miss America competition
Miss America is saying bye-bye to bikinis.
Gretchen Carlson, Miss America 1989 and chair of the Board of Trustees of the Miss America Organization, announced Tuesday that the organization is making major changes to the contest, including scrapping the swimsuit portion.
- Want to keep up on the latest from PEOPLE? Sign
up for our daily newsletter to get our best stories of the day delivered straight to your inbox.
“We are no longer a pageant. We are a competition,” Carlson said on Good Morning America. “We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance. That’s huge. And that means we will no longer have a swimsuit competition.”
She added that they are also “revamping” the evening gown portion, instead asking contestants to use their clothes to express their personal style.
Carlson, 51, said they want their more inclusive competition to inspire more women.
“We’ve heard from a lot of young women who say, ‘We’d love to be a part of your program but we don’t want to be out there in high heels and a swimsuit,’ so guess what, you don’t have to do that anymore,” she said. “Who doesn’t want to be empowered, learn leadership skills and pay for college and be able to show the world who you are as a person from the inside of your soul? That’s what we’re judging them on.”
The current Miss America, Cara Mund of North Dakota, shared a graphic of a bathing suit disappearing on her official Twitter page.
“We’re changing out of our swimsuits and into a whole new era,” she wrote, adding the hashtags #byebyebikini and #MissAmerica2019.
The former Fox News host and author of Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back said in April that in her new role as chairwoman of the Miss America, she’s “working diligently to make changes to the organization.”
When asked if the swimsuit competition would be removed, Carlson said it was a possibility.
“I would not have agreed to bring my movement to the organization unless we would turn it into a 100 percent empowerment and leadership organization,” Carlson told the crowd at the Simmons Leadership Conference in Boston. “We have more elephants in the room: I have a board, and we vote on things. So just be confident that I wouldn’t put my name and face on an organization unless I knew it was gonna be 100 percent empowerment and leadership.”
RELATED VIDEO: Gretchen Carlson ‘Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back’
Carlson, who reached a $20 million settlement in her sexual harassment lawsuit against former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes in 2016, said that while she never expected to be in charge of the competition, she knew it was something she needed to be a part of.
“This was a call of duty for me. I never envisioned I’d be running this organization, nor did I ask to,” Carlson said “We need to improve the messaging.”