Harvard University

Local Pageant Contestants React to Miss America Dropping Swimsuit Competition

Mixed reaction is pouring in after the Miss America Organization's announcement that it is dropping the swimsuit competition from its nationally televised broadcast.

The group's top three leadership posts are now held by women, and on Tuesday they sent the message of brains over beauty. 

"We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance. Tell us about your goals and achievements in life," Gretchen Carlson, chairwoman of the Miss America board of directors, said Tuesday on "Good Morning America."

Alissa Musto, a former Miss Massachusetts, is voicing her objection to Miss America's major makeover.

Musto, who still performs at an elite level with quite a range, is an accomplished musician and Harvard University graduate. 

"Some women find it empowering to go out there and compete in a bathing suit. A woman should be able to walk out on stage, on tv, in everyday life wearing whatever she wants," Musto says.

But not everyone agrees with Musto.

Samantha McGraw is getting ready for this year's Miss Massachusetts competition, and is already accomplished on the pageant circuit. She says dumping the swimsuit portion will help so many young women avoid what she went through.

"I started to get into disordered eating habits, and it stemmed from pageants and wanting to fit into a size zero," says McGraw.

Miss America started exclusively as a swimsuit competition nearly 100 years ago, but the country is now going through a culture shift, fueled by the #metoo movement. Pageant leaders say that’s part of the reason for the change.

"I think associating those two together, is kind of victim blaming. And saying well if you dress like this, you do a certain thing, you deserve it," Musto says.

But what Musto and McGraw can agree on, however, is that Miss America will always be about serving and inspiring others…with or without a swimsuit.

"It's going to change the future and going to change people’s lives," McGraw says.

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