With the Miss Arkansas Pageant happening over this week and concluding Saturday, the big national pageant news actually happened the week before as Miss America Pageant officials announced the elimination of the traditional swimsuit competition.
With the Miss Arkansas Pageant happening over this week and concluding Saturday, the big national pageant news actually happened the week before as Miss America Pageant officials announced the elimination of the traditional swimsuit competition, and additionally, saying that the evening gown competition will be modified and reduced in significance.
And, in many national outlets, officials said they expected the changes to filter down to the state and local level pageants over the next two years.
Pageant heads at both the state and local levels were still learning of the proposed changes and competition overhaul as they made comments this week from Hope, Prescott and Little Rock, where the Miss Arkansas Pageant has been underway.
Regionally respected pageant director Suzi Powell, who oversees events in both Hempstead and Howard Counties, said “These are ‘beauty’ pageants, and it seems like they are trying to take the ‘beauty’ out of the pageant. I am not crazy about these new ideas, and in fact, I think some of it is ridiculous.”
“And, I kind of have a hard time with this idea about the swimsuits, which are fairly conservative one-piece swimsuits at the local and state fair competitions, when I go on Instagram or Facebook and see many young ladies in string bikinis out on a beach or much more revealing active wear,” Powell said.
Powell largely objected to the proposed pageant overhaul into what has been called by some nationally, as a “video job interview.”
“And, the evening gowns? I just don’t see a problem with that. Why would they want to change that, too?” Powell asked.
Powell said that the local pageants that she oversees would not change their format immediately, and she would still be very hesitant to make the changes, even over the next couple of years.
“I am sorry that someone got on national television and said that; they do not speak for all of us in the local pageants,” she said.
Stacy Jester, the longtime director of the Miss Nevada County Pageant, said “The national level is a bit different than the county or the state levels, but I will say that as you try to encourage young ladies to enter the Miss Nevada Pageant, the swimsuit competition is one of the biggest drawbacks.”
“These girls can look like a million dollars in a swimsuit, but they can still be their own worst critic. Some county pageants have even had the swimsuit competition in private sessions — instead of the open stage — just as they do the interview sessions; as far as the swimsuits go, it may not be a bad change to make,” she said.
“On the other hand, I don’t agree with reducing the evening gown competition; to me the evening gowns are part of what makes it a ‘beauty pageant’ and I don’t understand why they would want to take that tradition away,” Jester said.
On Monday night from the Miss Arkansas pageant, contestant Reagan Grubbs, who has won a number of pageants and swimsuit competitions throughout southwest Arkansas, weighed in on the changes. Grubbs is the current Miss SAU, and she also won the Miss Southwest District Fair title in the past.
“I love it. I have no issue with the swimsuits or being up on stage on one; for me, its been a great confidence builder and very empowering. I feel more confident in my own skin than ever. I am very proud of my hard work in fitness and lifestyle, which is what it is really about, but I understand everyone is different,” Grubbs said.
Grubbs added an additional swimsuit honor to her pageant resume on Tuesday, when the Alpha Newcomer’s award in Lifestyle and Fitness in the Swimsuit competition.
And, the following night, Wednesday, actually saw a rare three-way tie in the Swimsuit competition as Miss Apple Blossom Kelley Brown, Miss ASU Cori Keller, and Miss Grand Prairie Charlee Carter were all named co-winners.
Also making a statement from the Miss Arkansas Pageant, the 2017 Miss Arkansas Maggie Benton said “Change is rarely easy, and I think it will take some time for many people who have been invested in the Miss America Organization to make this adjustment.”
“With that being said, I'm hopeful that these changes will be positive. I trust our Miss America leadership, and I know that there is a force of women working for the good of the organization at the end of the day. I'm excited to see the outcome,” she said.
Miss America Trustee Jessie Bennett, also in Little Rock for the Miss Arkansas pageant this week, said “The changes in regard to elimination of the swimsuit competition in the Miss America Competition will begin at the national competition as some states have already completed selection, this will not impact any other state competition including the Miss Arkansas competition this week.”
“The decision to make this change was important because it allows us to embrace women differently to do what we ultimately are passionate about in providing exceptional opportunities and scholarships for education. I personally still believe that being mentally and physically healthy is an important component of taking on the responsibility of being a local, state or national titleholder but my hope is that we work to continue to educate young women on healthy lifestyles,” Bennett said.
In a clarification, Miss Arkansas Pageant spokesperson Toni Bahn said “Beginning with state competitions in 2019 (for Miss America 2020), all states will comply with the competition guidelines set out by the Miss America Board of Directors. Local and state title competition will follow the same judging format as Miss America, with guidelines for the local competitions to be released sometime in July.”
Bahn also noted “Evening gown competition is not being eliminated rather the focus of the judging portion of that phase will be based more on content of their social impact statement. We are told that Miss America will still be crowned in a gown.”