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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at American chapter.

“From the State with 84% of U.S. freshwater but none for its residents to drink.” This is the statement that went viral after Miss Michigan (Emily Sioma) introduced herself on the Miss America stage. During the preliminary portion of the competition, Sioma used her brief introduction time to hit hard on an issue facing her community. “These women are not the leaders of the future, they’re the leaders of today” stated Sioma in an interview with MSNBC. And she’s absolutely right; in fact, this idea of the candidates as empowered female role models rather than sex symbols is stronger than ever following the reconstruction of the organization into “Miss America 2.0.”

Above: Emily Sioma, Miss Michigan 2018

The organization has faced years of criticism for the high (and unnecessary) beauty standards forced upon the contestants given that these standards perpetuated toxic social constructs, like sexism, and toxic social ideas, namely the idea that women should change themselves for men rather than act as role models for younger girls to become empowered women. The pageant took its hardest blow in 2017 when emails from the CEO, Sam Haskell, and other board members of the organization were exposed for slut and fat-shaming contestants.

Since then, the organization has made a dramatic shift in its mission, and the first step in fulfilling it was to replace the board entirely. The new Miss America board is now primarily made up of several former Miss Americas. In fact, it is lead by the 1989 Miss America–who is also a leading voice in the #MeToo movement–Gretchen Carlson. “I plan to make this organization 100% about empowering women,” said Carlson in an interview with ABC news. Looking back on the 2019 Miss American Competition, we can see that there have been incredible leaps towards that goal. From small changes like making the host of this year’s competition a woman, Carrie Ann Inaba of “Dancing with the Stars,” to big changes like eliminating the much-criticized swimsuit competition:

“When the winner is picked you know the impact she is going to make and you don’t need a swimsuit to do that”

~Cara Mund, Miss America 2018


By eliminating any emphasis on physical beauty in the competition and redirecting it towards the contestants’ talents, passions, and credibility, Miss America has managed to start heading in the right direction. The swimsuit competition has even been replaced by interactive questioning during the final round in the competitions. The questions asked by the judges reflect those which might be asked in a job interview, such as questioning the women on why they are right for the job and examining their overall platform.

While all physical appearance judging has been eliminated from the competition, the contestants are still judged 20% on their evening attire. But rest-assured, in the spirit of  keeping with the times and ever-shifting societal values they have loosened the dress requirements; “tonight we’ve asked our top ten to wear whatever they want to show their individual sense of style, glamour, and fashion” said co-host Ross Mathews. As the women strutted down the stage in their choice of attire, they shared their thoughts on how style can help women feel confident and empowered.  And best of all, the women were able to rock what ever made them feel great, from gowns to suits.

While the new Miss America 2.0 is still at the start of its evolution, this year’s competition has striven to prove that it wants to and intends to be an organization made up of successful, intelligent role models and leaders in communities across the nation.  With such powerful changes in place, we can believe that Miss America 2.0 will come to teach young girls that a woman’s brain, not her looks, is the most important thing about her.

Photo Credits: 1, 2

Molly Molloy

American '22

Molly is a freshmen at American University. She loves fashion, exploring new places, and dogs! Molly is and active feminist and an aspiring journalist.