Well Hello Tuesday Morning! LOL!!!
The “big announcement” many of us in MAO-land have been waiting for is finally here…
Earlier this morning on Good Morning America, new Miss America Chairwoman and former Miss America 1989 Gretchen Carlson stated that Miss America is no longer a pageant – “We are a competition” – and that the Swimsuit Portion of the Miss America competition would be completely eliminated. Further, the Evening Gown phase of the competition was being revamped to include opportunities for contestants to wear the attire of their choice (see the official interview here).
Good Gollie Miss Molly… Nothing like a “little 97 year change” to send all of us in the deep-end of the pageant pool into a total tizzy… That’s the kind of announcement which stirs up ALL KINDS of thoughts and opinions from passionate pageant people (whoops! I mean, “competition” peeps)…
Based on what I can gather, Miss America will now represent a new generation of female leaders, focused on scholarship, social impact, talent and empowerment.
After the initial word came down and the impact was perceived, I took a few moments this morning to peruse the web, checking out people’s varied reactions to the news. Interestingly enough, I found an array of opinions – many of which I’ve attempted to summarize and encapsulate into the following post…
To that end, instead of the “Four Points of the Crown” – I’m about to give you the “Four Corners of the Room” so to speak, regarding today’s announcement from Miss America Chairwoman, Gretchen Carlson…
Settle in Junkies… Here we go…
In this corner, we see the all-new, Miss America 2.0. An all-female leadership team, made up of former contestants, full of highly successful, well-accomplished, hard-working and dare I say, brilliant women. Many of you know Gretchen Carlson was a Stanford Grad, a violin virtuoso, and busted her tail for decades as she climbed the ladder of broadcast journalism to make it the big time (CBS, Fox, etc), only to sue her former employer for sexual harassment and kick off the #MeToo movement (yes – she’s pretty much been credited with initiating the whole thing). The new CEO Regina Hopper is a former Miss Arkansas who won an Emmy for her investigative reporting work on CBS, became a highly respected business executive and strategic lobbyist in DC, and was also a lawyer to boot. And that’s just the two ladies at the top!
This corner also includes many former Miss America winners who have gone on to accomplish some pretty amazing things in their lives… Winners like Debbye Turner, Leanza Cornett, Kirsten Haglund, and Mallory Hagan just to name a few… Winners who likely “tolerated” the swimsuit competition – seeing it as a means to an end. And the end, certainly justified the means because let’s face it – when it comes to their industry of choice, nobody cares how they looked in a swimsuit at the time.
I see this corner, as the corner of ACCOMPLISHMENT… Women who are driven, gifted communicators, and well-educated… Women who believe Miss America represents the kind of woman who should get the opportunity to make a serious impact and change our nation for the better. Because in many cases, she already has.
In this corner, we see die-hard pageant fans flailing and flapping their fabulously manicured fingers in disbelief. After all, Miss America STARTED AS A SWIMSUIT COMPETITION!!! This portion of the pageant is sooooooo ingrained in their minds as almost synonymous with Miss America – that to even TOUCH that phase of competition is unnecessary, unreasonable and dare I say, sacrilegious! Many of them believe it’s the “end of an era” (and they would be right) – but also that it’s the first nail in the coffin of the impeding doom of MAO. After all, who’s going to watch a competition on TV that only offers talent and a live interview? And what in the world are they going to WEAR for this live interview competition? Something other than an evening gown? Something that makes them feel empowered? What if a swimsuit makes me feel empowered? Can I wear my bikini during the live interview competition (lololol!)???
For this corner of the room – the questions just keep coming… Questions like, “So – does this mean we’re about to crown a size 10/12 and (gasp!) and potentially unattractive woman? Heck! Will we even put a crown on her head??? And will it fit??????? LOLOLOL!!!
I’m going to call this corner of the room the DIE-HARDS… Because let’s face it, these folks are going to their graves kicking and screaming that Miss America DIED the day they removed the swimsuit portion of the pageant… May she rest in peace…
Interestingly, in this corner, I see an awful lot of former contestants who have a full and robust appreciation for the swimsuit competition. Women who weren’t necessarily “naturally gifted” with a gorgeous and stunning body right out of the womb – but women who took the swimsuit portion of the competition as a challenge… Something that taught them discipline, something that incentivized them to “work harder and be better” than they ever thought they could be.
The word I keep seeing women in this corner use, is “empowered” – Which is interesting, because that’s the very word the new leadership is using regarding their reasons for dropping the swimsuit portion of the competition (ironic, ey?). These ladies say the swimsuit competition is what “empowered” them… That they never felt more “empowered” than they did when they walked on the Miss America stage in their swimsuit (and heels), showcasing all the hard work and confidence they gained while pushing their bodies to new limits. For many of them, “success” came when they realized they needed to prioritize the swimsuit competition – and all that hard work paid off. They’re proud of the way they looked when they were at the top of their game! And for many of them, it was truly a “lifestyle” that exuded positive changes which lasted years beyond the pageant stage.
For many reasons, I see this corner as the BEAUTY AND BRAINS corner of the room… Folks here are saying that a woman can be brilliant AND drop dead gorgeous at the same time. They’re saying that just because I look freaking fabulous in a killer bikini, I’m no dummy! These women are challenging the notion that as a young girl, you have to choose… Do you want to be known as smart? Or do you want to be known as pretty? This corner of the room says – If you want to be, YOU CAN BE BOTH! And by taking away the swimsuit competition – Miss America is actually taking away the notion that those two things CAN go together.
Finally, in this corner, I see the competition HOPEFULS. These are the women who are looking for scholarship dollars, but can’t fathom the idea of putting on a swimsuit – even for 15 seconds – just to pay for school. They’ve trained in their craft (or talent) for years and years – They’ve worked hard academically and advanced in school. But because of the astronomical cost of college these days, they’re still falling short regarding how in the world they’re going to pay for their education.
These are the women Miss America wants to bring into the fold. Women who have the self-discipline gained from honing a talent to its strongest point… Women who are already articulate, grounded in their personal beliefs, sharp, and aren’t afraid of talking to the press about their passions and platforms. Women who care deeply about social and societal impact – who are volunteering and championing their favorite causes in their communities. Women who believe people shouldn’t be judged on how they look – but on who they are. As CEO Regina Hopper put it, “Miss America’s new mission statement is to prepare great women for the world, and to prepare the world for great women.” And in truth – if that’s the mission statement, the bikinis seem a little outdated…
So Miss Molly… Where do we go from here…?
In my opinion, the line of the day includes the following sentence from Gretchen Carlson during her interview on GMA…
“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.”
Here’s what I love about leadership. The leader gets to decide where the organization is going to go – and then they state their case regarding why they’re passionate about this new direction. Then, all the previous followers make their own choice as to whether or not they’re going to continue following (even after some venting and clarifying about how the change is a little painful). Therefore – I’m not about to give an opinion on whether or not I think the leadership is “spot on” or “way off”… Rather, I’m going to finish this post in a different manner…
As we all know, Junkie Predictions are kinda my thing… Therefore – After seeing these 4 corners of the room, here’s my 4 predictions for the future of Miss America…
- My guess is, rapid and extensive organizational change is about to take place within the State and Local leadership of MAO… And in some cases, I think many of us would say, that’s a good thing! In other cases, there are likely a good number of directors who are simply not supportive of the new mission and they’ll quietly retire. It’s a changing of the guard that many of us never thought we’d see happen. But trust me – it’s about here.
- I’m also guessing that come September, we’re going to crown a crazy talented, super-dynamic, EXCEEDINGLY well spoken young woman as Miss America 2019. As far as the years after such? I have no idea what that looks like right now…
- Miss America can SAY they are now inclusive and prepared to welcome women of all shapes and sizes into the fold – But until we SEE those types of women succeeding on the Miss America stage, nobody’s gonna know if they’re truly serious about this new direction or not. Miss America needs a “win” on national TV super soon… Meaning, it’s imperative that they crown a “new kind of winner” this year in order to get a “new kind of contestant” next year.
- I hope the influx of new contestants out-weighs the exodus of current contestants. Let’s be honest – contestants who come back year after year attempting to win their state title are the foundation of a strong program. Ask any of the states with 40+ contestants and you’ll likely see a SUBSTANTIAL showing of ladies who’ve participated in a pageant before. Now that there’s a new mission in mind – I hope there’s enough “new blood” to outweigh the long-time pageant veterans who may no longer be interested in Miss America’s new direction (or who may be moving to Miss USA/Miss World/Miss Whoever).
Here’s the deal…
Regardless of your corner of the room, the Miss America Organization has placed a stake in the ground. They are declaring a new day for what Miss America stands for – and what she represents. Therefore, my question to you is…
Can you support the new mission statement of Miss America?
“To prepare great women for the world,
and to prepare the world for great women.”
If you can support that statement – here’s step #2…
Can you see yourself “preparing great women for the world” in ways other than, helping them look good in a bikini?
Because until I see otherwise, that’s what it means to be Miss America 2.0.
Carrie Lakey is kind of obsessed with Miss America…
So are 22,000 of her closest friends.
As an avid fan of the Miss America Organization, Carrie began
publicly predicting pageant winners over 10 years ago.
Now, she’s galvanizing an online movement of fans
known as “Pageant Junkies”.
Learn more about the Junkie Nation
by clicking here.