The Miss America 2019 pageant bucked tradition by forgoing the swimsuit contest in favor of a “red carpet competition.” At the same time, some contestants used their moment in the spotlight to draw attention to political issues close to their hearts.
“From the state with 84% of the US freshwater but none for its residents to drink, I am Miss Michigan Emily Sioma,” said one. This was thought to be a reference to the ongoing struggle in Flint, Michigan, where residents are still afraid to use their own tap water.
“Clearly this is not your mother’s Miss America pageant,” commented one viewer on Twitter.
The red carpet competition resulted in mixed reviews. The classic swimsuit competition has been denounced for decades as being sexist and promoting the idea that a woman’s only value is in her appearance and potential as a sex object. This new contest allows contestants to wear “whatever they want,” according to the host. Most of the women chose to wear elegant gowns as though they were attending a real red carpet event.
Not everyone was a fan of how the red carpet competition played out, though.
“This looks like a teenage pageant, not the elegant evening wear competition of yore,” wrote Twitter user @MCMcAnnally.
Others felt that in spite of these positive steps, the Miss America pageant might simply be too harmful at its core.
“The reality is the Miss America pageant, and spinoffs like Miss USA, are completely rooted in the sorts of attitudes that movements like #MeToo seek to eradicate,” wrote Ani Bundel for NBC. “It may in fact be impossible to create a beauty pageant that both practices and preaches equality.”
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