Overall, this is a PR disaster. Regardless of the reasoning for the changes, regardless of any longterm benefit that might come from all of this… it’s a mess. It is too soon after the most recent Miss America overhaul for another complete change.
This is being fueled by money. Period. It’s no secret that the Miss America Organization has been hurting, and this is a last ditch effort to restore some financial standing.
My biggest issue with the changes overall is that they are being announced mid-season. Many locals have already taken place, and some state competitions are quickly approaching. But now we want to pause and change eligibility, verbiage, logos, and category scoring? What about the ladies who already won under the previous guidelines? It’s not fair, but obviously MAO doesn’t care.
Again, it’s all about the money.
This is a long post, so here’s a quick breakdown of the changes I’ll be discussing:
- Age Eligibility
- Fitness Wear
- Outstanding Teen Titles
- At-Large Miss Titles
- Crown Logo
I will not be discussing by opinions on trans contestants, or married/mother contestants at this time.
Miss America Age Eligibility
The only confirmed change at this point is the immediate expansion of age eligibility. Miss America’s age eligibility is now 18-28. For reference, when I competed the age bracket was 17-24. It increased once immediately after, then again during the pandemic. This is the third increase in recent years.
I want to love this change because it increases the opportunities for contestants, but in truth I hate this.
Miss America is a scholarship Organization (or at least it was). Prize money is supposed to go towards tuition or education loans. Now, I’m not saying people can’t continue their education into their 30s. But how many are pursuing doctorates? Increasing the age to 28 is not being done to increase the opportunity for scholarship. It’s being done to increase the income from registration fees.
Welcome Back, Fitness Wear
After Rebel Athletic sponsored the most recent Miss America competition, is anyone even surprised there’s a fitness competition being added? Nope.
There is so much wrong with this, on top of the fact it’s being changed mid season. Now ladies who competed without a fitness category, who won a local title without a fitness category, will be expected to compete at the state level in a fitness category. That’s trash.
Fitness Wear is subjective, ableist, and potentially even transphobic.
When Miss America took out the lifestyle and fitness category, the rationale was that this category objectified the women by putting their score on their physical bodies. They claimed it was being removed so that more emphasis was placed on the woman’s intellectual and educational pursuits. Putting it back, not only backtracks in pure hypocrisy, essentially telling these ladies jk we want to judge your bodies again but the fact that it is clearly being funded by Rebel Athletic further sexualizes and objectifies these ladies. Swimsuit is sexy, it got Miss America on national TV. Dropping swimsuit lost money and sponsors, and now they’re willing to put the titleholders on stage in spandex for sponsors. This is the definition of selling out.
I know, I know. Miss America was originally a swimsuit competition. I understand the rich history as much as any of you. I didn’t want to see the Lifestyle & Fitness category go in the first place. So is it selling out if it’s just going back? Yes. Because it’s not going back to swimwear for the legacy aspect. It’s adding fitness for money and on-stage beauty after making such a big deal about redirecting the focus to intellect and scholarship.
Fitness is a personal journey. Certified personal trainers are not able to look at a client and determine their fitness level, so how are non-fitness professionals supposed to judge someone prancing in a sports bra and leggings across the stage? Not to mention, a professional body builder has an aesthetically perfect body compared to a powerlifter, who could lift 3x their body weight. But which one wins a fitness competition?
A fitness category does nothing to consider genetics, athletic ability, or nutrition habits. Those judges weren’t backstage when the ladies used to pass Smooth Move around a circle between rehearsals. Those judges don’t review the contestants food diaries.
They say the fitness category is judging confidence and charisma on stage, and they want to promote a healthy heart (possibly a partnership with the American Heart Association). But did you know, a person with an eating disorder is at higher risk of cardiomyopathy, hypotension, arrhythmia, and even cardiac arrest? Maybe it’s not a coincidence AHA is a potential partner. Sorry for the frog in the tea.
Having a fitness competition is unfair scoring for ladies who have different genetics or disabilities. Some ladies have low muscle tone, some ladies have PCOS which affects weight. These are out of their control, and they shouldn’t impact their scores. And no, don’t tell me they can share their story in Interview to convince the judges to score them differently. Disabled contestants shouldn’t need to beg for pity votes in the interview room. The scoresheets should be fair from the get go.
Outstanding Teen vs Miss America’s Teen
The Miss Americas Outstanding Teen Organization started in 2005 as Miss America’s little sister program. Originally it had all the same categories except for a shortened interview, fitness replaced swimwear, and there was a scholastic accomplishment category.
When they started this program, the title Miss America’s Teen was already trademarked by another organization. As a result, the word “Outstanding” was added to the titles.
But that was such a mouthful! It doesn’t fit on sashes, it doesn’t make for easy social media handles, and the possession and apostrophe confused everyone (especially when the title ended with an S).
Now that Miss America’s Teen is up for grabs, the Miss America Org (or Opportunity, whatever) snatched it up.
It will be a mental floss to shift our verbiage over. But ultimately this is a great move. The title has already been shifted on the national website, and the new sashes are being designed. Current Outstanding Teen titleholders will be permitted to keep their current sash, or have an option to replace it. Any new teens crowned moving forward will have the new sash. State titleholder’s this year will have the new sash.
Overall, I’m happy with this change.
At-Large Miss Titles
I’m not surprised by this, based on Robin Fleming’s history with the USA system. Miss NYUSA is exclusively at-large delegates, with an astronomical fee, and there’s still a hundred ladies on the state fee. Limiting state candidates to ladies who won a local is limiting the cash flow from registration, and also limiting the contestant pool to choose a winner from. More ladies means more money, and more options for a winner.
But what does this mean for these established locals with 50+ year histories and sponsors? How do we reiterate the concept that local titleholders are the heart of the organization with a hundred ladies across the state doing nothing to serve their community or further the Organization?
How can this work? These are my suggestions for at-large Miss candidates at state:
1. Limit applications to runners-up and/ladies who competed previously in the season. In the past, New York has held “runners up pageants” to collect girls who wanted a title, did their best, and finished without a crown. Allowing these ladies to compete at State at-large would be a great way to make sure talented contestants don’t slip through the crack. We know they’re committed. We know they’re talented. Let them prove it at state.
The limitation could also be opened up to ladies who did not have an opportunity to compete for a local. Some regions do not have a closed local in their area, and the closest state-wide open is 2-3+ hours away. Those ladies should also have the opportunity for an at-large title, because they did not have a fair opportunity to obtain a local title.
2. At-Large titleholders should be required to complete their year of service just like any titleholder who won a local. There is a non-compete clause for 10+ months after receiving their at large title, to prevent ladies from buying their way into State and then ditching the title when they don’t win.
The Crown Logo
The new MAO has decided to ditch some of the 2.0 changes, such as the MA gold line crown logo.
Thankfully, we’ve also ditched the “candidate” nonsense, and can refer to the ladies as contestants or delegates again. They still don’t have platforms, now apparently their social impact initiative will be referred to as their service initiative. Something to do with getting back to the original Four Points, but that’s a lot of jargon when we could just call it a platform.
But back to the logo.
There seems to be some confusion about what a logo is. The original, iconic, Miss America crown is not a logo. Its a line drawing. This gold image above is a logo. They are not the same, and don’t need to be mutually exclusive.
The rule of thumb I learned in marketing classes was that a logo should be able to be tattooed on an index finger and still recognizable for a brand. The crown image is not tattooable. Hundreds of smaller pageant systems have a similar crown image. It’s not recognizable to the brand.
The gold 2.0 crown is a logo. Heck, make it silver if you don’t like the new gold branding. But don’t ditch it completely. We were finally getting used to it.
There are my thoughts on some of the changes we’ll see rolling out over the next few weeks. I’m a die hard Miss America enthusiast, and not going anywhere. Sometimes we’ve got to accept hard changes we don’t like. So I’ll be here to help you navigate your road to Miss America even if it’s a different road than we wanted to take.
Keep your crown on, folks. We’ve got work to do.