Lowcountry title holders react to Miss America dropping swimsuit competition

SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - Some big changes are in store for the Miss America Organization, which says it will no longer judge contestants based on physical appearance and will do away with the swimsuit portion of the competition.

Miss Summerville 2018, Carli Drayton, supports the change.

"I think more women who are capable of being Miss South Carolina or Miss America would participate in the pageant if they didn't have to be in a bikini and heels," Drayton said. "I feel like it's something that's not really needed, I understand the lifestyle and the fitness portion and maybe we could do something like teens and wear a fitness outfit."

Miss Dorchester County 2018, Avonlea Knode, has a bit of a different view.

"I do appreciate the swimsuit competition itself in a way; I find the swimsuit in a way empowering it's really interesting to see how you feel walking on a stage showing everyone the fit and healthy body you worked so hard to achieve," Knode said.

The Miss America Organization says the swimsuit portion will be replaced with a live interactive session with judges where contestants will highlight their achievements and goals in life and how they will use their talents and passions to perform the job of Miss America.

"I can understand the opposite side of the argument in a sense that it's not something necessarily everyone needs  to be showcasing, I think it's a great step towards a more modest generation," Knode said.

The Co-Executive Director of  Miss South Carolina Scholarship Program, Chaz Ellis, says the swimsuit portion is a tradition.

"While I don't agree with it necessarily, I realize the goal is, states all across the country are seeing a decline in participation and they feel like this is one  of the means to change that," Ellis said.

On Monday he was judging the Miss Oklahoma Pageant and says several girls mentioned the changes in some way during their interview portion.

He says some of the contestants talked about how they worked so hard to become physically fit, "it wasn't about being the skinniest, it wasn't about being in a bikini it was about showing a sense of physical fitness as they are preparing for a job that is 365 days a year," Ellis said.

Miss South Carolina 2011, Bree Boyce, responded with the following statement.

"I'm a bit saddened by this decision. I think if we are trying to be body positive and inclusive, we should celebrate women of all sizes in the lifestyle and fitness competition. Whether that be a swimsuit or in workout attire. There are women who are not a size 2-4 that aren't considered 'fit' by industry standards but are in great shape. I'm not a size 2, but I workout daily and eat healthy 95 percent of the time. Being healthy isn't about a number or size, it's about taking care of yourself and being confident with the body you have. I wish we had thought of other ways to show inclusiveness rather than taking the lifestyle and fitness portion away altogether. But, I'm hopeful. I love this organization and I truly do hope that we can all come together to figure out how this works and looks for our future contestants and organization." 

Boyce's Platform issue is eating healthy and fighting obesity.  Through healthy eating and exercise, Boyce lost more than 100 pounds over a period of three years, and began competing in beauty pageants.

"Although it is a shock to a lot of people, I think everyone should of realized something that's been coming, especially with the #MeToo movement that's going on right now, " Drayton said. "They just want to make sure all women feel important, they feel empowered and most importantly they feel comfortable because that's when you do your best."

The Miss America Organization is also modifying the evening gown portion of the competition to evening wear.They say change will allow participants to express their self-confidence in evening attire of their choosing while discussing how they will advance their social impact initiatives.

"I trust that the Miss America Organization and the Miss South Carolina organization are doing this for the best possible outcome," Knode said.

The Lowcountry Field Director for the Miss South Carolina Organization, Brooks Hearn Crom, released the following statement on the changes:

"While the decision to eliminate the Lifestyle and Fitness phase of competition is a break from tradition, I think the change reflects larger trends in today's society. Miss America is first and foremost a means for young women to build their confidence, give back to worthwhile causes, and advance their careers and education. At the end of the day, what remains most important is that the Miss America Organization is the largest provider of scholarship assistance to young women in the United States."

The Miss America Pageant is also modifying the evening gown portion of the competition to evening wear.

They say the change will allow participants to express their self-confidence in the evening attire of their choosing while discussing how they will advance their social impact initiatives.

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