MARION, IL — Some Miss Illinois contestants say they support the Miss America Organization’s decision to scrap swimsuits from its competitions.
“We are no longer a pageant. We are a competition. We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance,” said Miss America Board of Directors Chair Gretchen Carlson on “Good Morning America” Tuesday.
The decision will directly affect state competitions, including the Miss Illinois Finals, which will take place in Marion Wednesday through Saturday. Miss Illinois Executive Director Ashley Hatfield said this year’s event will still feature swimsuits. But, starting next year, they will no longer be part of the competition.
The winner of the Miss Illinois Finals will compete in September in the Miss America competition, which will not feature swimwear.
“Change can always be difficult. But, I think we want to move forward as an organization, and we want to empower young women to have a voice and to showcase their intellect, and their communication skills, and their talent, more so than their swimsuits,” said Hatfield.
Grace Etzkorn, a Miss Illinois contestant from Chicago, said eliminating the swimsuit competition seems like a good decision.
“The job of Miss Illinois and the job of Miss America is to inspire others, and to touch lives, and to make a difference in their own communities and across this country, and you don’t have to be in a swimsuit to do that,” said Etzkorn. “So, I believe that the changes that they are impacting will create a new generation of Miss America, and hopefully, one that is just as impactful.”
Grace Khachaturian, a Miss Illinois contestant from Champaign, agrees.
“It doesn’t matter the amount of clothing that you’re wearing. I don’t think that determines anything,” said Khachaturian. “I think that you can tell if someone is fit and living a healthy lifestyle with more clothing on, so I actually think it’s a great move. I think it is kind of reconstructing a brand of Miss America and the fact that it’s now a competition rather than a pageant. But yes, I think it’s a fresh look, and I think it’s going to be a strong take.”
This year’s Miss Illinois Finals features 23 contestants. An additional 21 contestants are taking part in the Outstanding Teen competition. Hatfield said the two scoring categories that carry the most points are interview and talent.
Hatfield said this year’s Miss Illinois Finals will award $50,000 in scholarships to the contestants. In addition, in-kind scholarships from colleges and universities across the country will be made available to the contestants.
“It’s a scholarship organization, and that’s priority and always has been,” said Khachaturian. “And, I think that’s what we pride ourselves in.”
The Miss Illinois preliminary competition will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center. The winner will be crowned Saturday night. For the full schedule of events and ticket information, click here.
For more information on the Miss Illinois competition, visit www.missillinois.org.