Miss Teen USA Ditches Swimwear for Athleisure

Because swimsuit competitions are like, so 2015.

When we first read that Miss Teen USA was ditching the swimsuit component of its annual beauty pageant competition, we thought, “Huh. Progress.”

That is, until we understood that the contestants, aged 15-19, would be parading around the stage in “athletic wear,” instead. Um, progress?

USA Today broke the news Wednesday morning that the Miss Teen USA pageant, a division of WME | IMG’s Miss Universe Organization, would be doing away with the swimsuits in an effort to modernize the competition. Pageant organizers noted that the swimsuit portion had always been intended to show off the girls’ “athleticism” (okay, sure), but stated that the shift to athletic wear better shows the organization’s focus on health and wellness.

Writes Miss Universe president Paula Shugart, “This decision reflects an important cultural shift we’re all celebrating that empowers women who lead active, purposeful lives and encourage those in their communities to do the same.” There’s no word yet on whether the Miss Universe pageant will follow suit.

A photo posted by Katherine Haik (@missteenusa) on Jun 29, 2016 at 8:16am PDT

The Miss Universe Organization tells Pret-a-Reporter that they have yet to define “athletic wear,” however judging from the official Instagram account of reigning Miss Teen USA, Katherine Haik, we’re guessing it looks a lot like leggings, sports bras and sneakers. The 16-year-old posted a photo from a recent hike to announce the news.

“I have been an athlete my entire life,” says Haik. “As a member of a softball team and a competitive dance team, I spend a lot of time in athletic wear.” Plus, athleisure is like, so hot right now among Gen Z — just ask Puma ambassador Kylie Jenner. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from watching the Kween of Tweens’ Snapchat account (yep, guilty) it’s that teens love athleisure and overdrawn matte lips — preferably at the same time.

The organization’s decision could also provide an opportunity for one of the hundreds of emerging athleisure brands on the block to score a sponsorship deal to outfit the 51 teens (representing 50 states and the District of Columbia). Previously, contestants wore bikinis by Sun Kitten Swimwear which they paired with heels by Chinese Laundry.

The Miss Teen USA pageant, which has not been televised since 2007, will test-drive the new athletic wear competition at this year’s pageant on July 30 in Las Vegas.

A photo posted by Katherine Haik (@missteenusa) on Mar 11, 2016 at 1:05pm PST

It’s about time: Miss Teen USA ditches swimsuits

The swimsuit round of the Miss Teen USA pageant has been lost at sea.

The 2016 pageant, which takes place this weekend, will feature an athletic wear competition in lieu of the traditional swimsuit portion. The move follows in the footsteps of the Miss World pageant, which struck the swimsuit round from its competition in 2014.

” committed to continuing to evolve in ways that celebrate women’s strength, confidence, and beauty for years to come,” said Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization which operates the Miss Teen USA pageant.

Shugart added that the decision to replace swimsuits with athletic wear “reflects an important cultural shift … that empowers women who lead active, purposeful lives and encourage those in their communities to do the same.” The new athletic wear portion of the competition hopes to focus more on health and wellness than being “beach body ready.”

Miss Teen USA to eliminate swimsuit competition; this will replace it https://t.co/HbeEr9tPzEpic.twitter.com/zE0YRpi1c6

— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 29, 2016

While the shift from swimsuits to athletic wear reflects progress, there’s still a long way to go in reforming the way we value women and girls. Pageants have long perpetuated narrow norms of female beauty, rewarding those who happen to possess those traits, thereby legitimizing the objectification of women and girls. The mere fact of their existence and prevalent media coverage reinforces the idea that girls and women should be valued primarily for their physical appearances.

A photo posted by Erin Snow (@missalteenusa) on Apr 22, 2016 at 8:09pm PDT

To combat this message, the French government banned beauty pageants for girls under the age of 16 in 2013. The major proponent of the ban Chantal Jouanno said the ban makes the statement that “what counts is what have in their brains.” In 2014, the Argentine town of Chivilcoy banned beauty pageants altogether, opting instead to hold a competition in which the award goes to the young woman who has contributed the most to her community.

Happy to be able to represent the 50 states of the US with 50 beautiful, smart, and talented young ladies 💜 #clementeproductions #missteenusa #missteenusa2016 #missusa #missuniverse #bemorethanpretty photo cred: @zacgrimaldo

A photo posted by Valeria Podobniy (@missnhteenusa) on Jun 10, 2016 at 10:35am PDT

Miss Teen USA’s announcement marks a step forward, but still reinforces the idea that girls and women should be prized for their subjective beauty, rather than their accomplishments and talents. In the future, we hope to see a system that values people for their personalities and capabilities over their appearances.

The Miss Teen USA pageant is getting a major update: They’re ditching the long-criticized swimsuit competition, according to USA Today.

The Miss Universe organization has in the past defended judging young women for the way they look in swimwear as a way to encourage athleticism. So now, they’re trading the swimwear portion for an “atheltic wear compeition,” according to the report.

Getty Images

“This decision reflects an important cultural shift we’re all celebrating that empowers women who lead active, purposeful lives and encourage those in their communities to do the same,” Miss Universe president Paula Shugart wrote in a memo to state directors obtained by the outlet. “Our hope is that this decision will help all of Miss Teen USA’s fans recognize these young women for the strong, inspiring individuals they are.”

The reigning Miss Teen USA, Katherine Haik, applauded the switch to athletic wear, saying: “I have been an athlete my entire life. As a member of a softball team and a competitive dance team, I spend a lot of time in athletic wear. This new direction for Miss Teen USA is a great way to celebrate the active lives that so many young women lead and set a strong example for our peers.”

— Miss Teen USA (@MissTeenUSA) June 23, 2016

Miss Teen USA could be leading a shift away from swimwear for other pageants. Julianne Hough, the host and creative producer for this year’s Miss USA events, told the outlet, “There’s definitely some work I think still to be done, that’s where we’ve been talking with the producers. In the next few years we may grow from that, but let’s see where this year goes.”

Follow Kate on Twitter.

Kate Storey Senior Staff Writer Kate is a writer for Esquire covering culture, politics, style, and lifestyle.

Exclusive: Miss Teen USA to eliminate swimsuit competition

Maeve McDermott USATODAY Published 7:26 PM EDT Jun 29, 2016

One of America’s highest-profile beauty pageants just traded bikinis for athleisure.

In recent years, competitions have increasingly modernized, featuring women that break the mold of the traditional pageant queen — like Miss Missouri Erin O’Flaherty, who will compete as Miss America’s first openly gay contestant this year, and Miss District of Columbia Deshauna Barber, the Army officer crowned 2016’s Miss USA. But still, the much-maligned swimsuit competition remains a staple of the major pageants.

That’s no longer the case for Miss Teen USA, after the Miss Universe organization announced that the pageant is going swimsuit-free. Instead, the 51 women (from the 50 states plus D.C.) will be judged in a brand-new athletic wear competition.

Pageant organizers have long said swimsuit portions were intended to show off the athleticism of the competitors. But Miss Teen USA’s transition to athletic wear reads as less exploitative and more focused on the importance of physical fitness for its younger participants, aged 15-19.

“I have been an athlete my entire life. As a member of a softball team and a competitive dance team, I spend a lot of time in athletic wear,” says Katherine Haik, the reigning Miss Teen USA.

“This new direction for Miss Teen USA is a great way to celebrate the active lives that so many young women lead and set a strong example for our peers.”

The move is consistent with the overall rebranding of the Miss Universe Organization, which has shifted under WME-IMG, the talent agency that purchased it from former owner Donald Trump in September. The sale came after NBC and Univision dropped the broadcast of Miss USA following comments the Republican presidential candidate made regarding illegal immigrants.

As Miss Universe president Paula Shugart shared in a memo, Miss Teen USA’s shift is meant to “celebrate women’s strength, confidence and beauty” in different, more constructive ways.

“This decision reflects an important cultural shift we’re all celebrating that empowers women who lead active, purposeful lives and encourage those in their communities to do the same,” she wrote. Our hope is that this decision will help all of Miss Teen USA’s fans recognize these young women for the strong, inspiring individuals they are.”

“If they are looking to expand this is a very shrewd move. It’s consistent with the overall brand and message the new owners are talking about,” says pageant coach Valerie Hayes. “I think that it will cause more parents to be open to their daughters competing in a state or local Teen Miss USA pageant, because its been a concern of parents in the past.”

The pageant’s shift from swimsuits to activewear is also a smart business move, chasing the rise of athleisure fashion, says former Miss Virginia Nancy Redd. “Teens are spending .1 percent of their life in a bathing suit and 50 percent in athleisure. The pageant is following the trend of who can sponsor them.”

Reaction to the decision was overwhelmingly positive.

“This is a great step in the right direction of women embracing their physical strength, as opposed to their appearance,” says Redd, who won Miss America’s swimsuit competition in 2003. “This is focusing on what bodies can do, not just what they look like.”

Could the other pageants in the Miss Universe organization follow the lead of Miss Teen USA? Julianne Hough, the host and creative producer for this year’s Miss USA, previously suggested that the competition should consider retiring the swimsuits in an interview with USA TODAY.

“There’s definitely some work I think still to be done, that’s where we’ve been talking with the producers,” she said about the pageant’s swimsuit portion. “In the next few years we may grow from that, but let’s see where this year goes.”

Hough hinted that the Miss Universe organization would refocus its pageants on health and wellness. “They’ve talked about different ideas for that aspect of the competition…being confident in the fact you worked hard to get that body and you go to the gym and you eat healthy and do certain things,” she said.

The 2016 Miss Teen USA pageant will be held in Las Vegas on July 30.

Cara Kelly contributed to this report.

Published 7:26 PM EDT Jun 29, 2016

This isn’t the first beauty pageant to change their tune. Back in the summer of 2016, I initially wrote this article in praise of the Miss Teen USA organization for replacing the swimsuit competition with an athleisure component.

Looking back, I realized that the entire swimsuit portion of the competition is based on judging minors — girls who are 18 and under (and some as young as 14) — on how they look in bikinis. It is one-third of the contestant’s overall score.

These girls aren’t just being overtly sexualized, with photos that live on the internet forever, they are under extreme pressure to be as thin as they can get.

RELATED: Why Miss Teen USA pageant is getting rid of its swimsuit competition

Miss Teen USA says goodbye to bikinis

June 30, 201600:46

At one of the last pageants I competed in — that wasn’t affiliated with Miss Teen USA — we were forced to practice dance routines and walk in formations for 13 hours a day, spending a week straight with little to no breaks for food. By the time finals came around, I had lost so much weight that my dress had to be hemmed since it now hung so loosely, I was tripping over its chiffon skirt.

I wasn’t the only one feeling stressed and weak. During the final show, one of the girls in the top five actually passed out on stage.

Posing with my dad at the Miss Teen Pennsylvania contest. Not all of my memories from the pageant circuit are negative, but the swimsuit portion always seemed too far.Emily Slawek

A close friend of mine won a state title, but by the time she showed up at nationals, she had lost almost 20 pounds and was addicted to laxatives. Since then, she has been in and out of the hospital for problems stemming from her eating disorder. I watched her deteriorate from a healthy, intelligent, vibrant young woman to a frail person who was full of anxiety and self-doubt.

The swimsuit competition was always my least favorite parts of the pageant. In addition to the walking-around-in-a-bikini-and-heels situation, an over-the-top spray tan is basically mandatory so that you don’t get washed out from the stage lights. Even more comical was the fact that my strawberry blond hair nearly matched my orange skin. It was terrifying in person.

To top it off, the bikini gets glued to your skin so that nothing slips out on stage. All I have to say is that glue is very tough to get off.

The swimsuit competition was ALWAYS my least favorite part of competing in pageants. Emily Slawek

I did work out especially hard for the bikini portion, but I’ve always had hips regardless of my weight. Most of the girls who competed and placed high on a state or national level had no hips — their bodies were straight up and down, which always made me feel ashamed of my curves. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how foolish that was and learned to love my body as it is.

After the pageants, I received hundreds of messages on Facebook from strangers who had seen my picture online. I’m still not thrilled about the fact that there are photos of me in a bikini floating around on the internet.

It effects me even know as I often feel judged, like I have to prove that I’m smart enough to override the stereotype of a pageant girl. One internship interview for a large media company was canceled within 10 minutes because the interviewer found out that I had competed in pageants. Her assistant called me later and recommended that I not tell anyone about my history if I wanted a career in the industry.

Miss Teen USA: ‘I was terrified’ by hacker blackmail

Aug. 29, 201302:31

Despite the downsides, competing in pageants did help me learn how to love myself. My experiences helped spark my interest in communications and sharing stories, and helped me identify and pursue my goals. Once I did land job interviews, my background preparing for the rigorous question-and-answer sessions in pageants set me up to succeed, teaching me to handle any question thrown my way. The competitions also taught me how to remain calm in stressful situations and helped me overcome my shyness, which had been holding me back.

I don’t regret a moment of competing, even if I eventually wondered why complete strangers were deciding whether I was worthy based on how well I walk, talk and look in a bikini.

I didn’t walk away with any scholarships (pageants don’t offer as many prizes as you would imagine), but it still opened up a lot of other opportunities and introduced me to lifelong friends. I had endless laughs and made positive memories that will stay with me forever. I don’t regret a moment of competing, even if I eventually wondered why complete strangers were deciding whether I was worthy based on how well I walk, talk and look in a bikini. I didn’t feel like those strangers could figure out who I was from a quick interview or watching me on stage wearing 10 pounds of makeup.

Given the chance, I would do it all over again. But after stepping out of the pageant world over the past couple of years, I’m left with one question: Why are we judging young women at all?

Women should be proud of their bodies — and of being fit and healthy. The winner should be crowned based on her personality, speaking points, platform and poise rather than how good she looks in a bikini or how many meals she’s missed.

I think removing the bikini competition is a step in the right direction for empowering women to feel confident about more than their looks.

In 2016, the Miss Teen USA organization eliminated the swimsuit competition. @missteenusa / instagram

At this point in my life, a crown isn’t part of my career plan. But I’m glad to see that the Miss America organization and the Miss Teen USA organization are making changes in how they operate in an effort to empower women and reward healthy behaviors.

Because here’s what no teenager (or grown woman) should have to give up for a pageant: her job prospects, her self-esteem or her health.

This was originally published on July 1, 2016.

Getty Kiara Ortega of Puerto Rico competes in the swimsuit competition during the 2018 Miss Universe pageant in Bangkok on December 13, 2018.

Tonight, the Miss American competition took place at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada. Hosted by Nick and Vanessa Lachey, the event welcomed 51 delegates from across the country.

Check out some of the swimsuit photos below.

Talk about a 🗣 T W I R L @SinesiaKarol

LIVE from @GrandSierra in @RenoTahoe, this is #MissUSA LIVE on @FOXTV. pic.twitter.com/4OMWa9lcoh

— Miss USA & Miss Teen USA (@MissUSA) May 3, 2019

YAS! Work that stage. 🙌 @SinesiaKarol

LIVE from @GrandSierra in @RenoTahoe, this is #MissUSA LIVE on @FOXTV. pic.twitter.com/3RVAgmXCh2

— Miss USA & Miss Teen USA (@MissUSA) May 3, 2019

WORK 👏 IT 👏 @SinesiaKarol

LIVE from @GrandSierra in @RenoTahoe, this is #MissUSA LIVE on @FOXTV. pic.twitter.com/JXDpy42YjD

— Miss USA & Miss Teen USA (@MissUSA) May 3, 2019

If we’re shiny, everybody gonna shine ✨ @lizzo @Sinesiakarol @laurenlorraine1

LIVE from @GrandSierra in @RenoTahoe, this is #MissUSA LIVE on @FOXTV. pic.twitter.com/GnUafglD4d

— Miss USA & Miss Teen USA (@MissUSA) May 3, 2019

With Miss USA, Miss Universe, and Miss America competitions taking place each year, it can be difficult to differentiate the differences in each of these events.

Here’s how it works: the winner of Miss USA goes on to compete in the Miss Universe pageant, while the Miss America competition is a separate scholarship program as well as a pageant. (The Miss America pageant does not have a swimsuit portion; instead, it involves a talent competition.)

Tonight, Miss USA Sarah Rose Summers will hand her crown off to another pageant star. In a recent interview with Fox News, Summers shared, “It’s a bittersweet moment… I never, ever dreamt of being Miss USA. It was always, of course, something in the very back of my head, but it was never a goal that I had spoken into existence. Because Nebraska, which is my home state, had never even made the top five before, my goal was top 15. So everything after the top 10, top 5, top 3, winning and essentially representing the USA for the whole year has just been a cherry on top of the experience that I was excited about one year ago.”

She continued, “A lot of my year revolved around visiting children in hospitals and their families and seeing whether it’s single moms or even single dads at the bedside supporting their child while working on their laptop. All of that is a beautiful picture of strength and support and love that I think transcends everything else that represents the U.S.”

And how does the competition work? Each competition starts off with a preliminary interview that includes a swimsuit or athletic wear and even gown presentation. Here, the judges are able to narrow down the competition to semifinalists.

From there, there is a live show, which fans will be witnessing tonight. The live show starts with the announcement of the Semifinalists, at which point, that group moves on to the second stage of the competition; the evening gown segment. From the evening gown competition, six competitors are chosen to advance. The six women select a judge, randomly, who asks them a question about social, cultural, and political topics.

The top 3 contestants move on to the Final Look, where the winner is announced and crowned.

I used to shrug off the feminists who made a big deal about the swimsuit competition in pageants being sexist; I believed my mentors in the pageant world that, like in body-building competitions, swimsuits just allowed contestants to show off their inner confidence and judges to assess our physical fitness. But after participating in pageants, I’ve realized that the idea that the swimsuit segment is just about fitness is completely false: It’s about whether or not you fit a certain, antiquated ideal of the “perfect woman.”

So, hearing the news that Miss America will forgo the swimsuit competition, I shed no tears; they will not be alone in the pageant universe. Many prestigious pageant systems already don’t include swimsuits in their competition: the Miss World and Miss International systems both focus on fitness wear or sports to gauge how athletic a contestant really is.

And both systems somehow still manage to pick the most beautiful and fit women in the world as their winners.

Contestants in the first Miss America pageant line up for the judges in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in Sept. 1921. Miss America started as a bathing suit contest on the uncomplicated theory it might help fill Atlantic City hotel rooms for an extra week past Labor Day at the end of the summer season.AP file

The entire pageant world already realized that old school pageantry is dying off, especially since the people who watch at home want a well-rounded, relatable human being as their winner. Some have held onto the old ways because they could — and the organization through which I came up, Miss USA/Miss Universe, has been one of them.

Ironically, I initially chose to enter Miss USA system pageants because they were more inclusive: The Miss America Organization age limit is 24, but the Miss USA/Miss Universe had changed their limit in recent years to 28.

I came late to the pageant world, partly because I have always considered myself a strong feminist (though I hold strong conservative beliefs) and I know that any good feminist is supposed to hate pageantry with a passion. But the other reason was, after a difficult upbringing, there was a time that, though I am only five-foot-three, I weighed 241 pounds.

Allie CurtisSPC Alexandra Curtis

I finally decided to change my life and, in the course of my years worked hard to get healthy. I befriended Allie Curtis, Miss Rhode Island 2015 — a Brown University graduate, cybersecurity nerd and newly enlisted Army National Guard member. If she embraced pageantry, I thought, then there must have been something I had missed before. And so, after years of her urging, I finally took the plunge and started competing at age 27.

Get the think newsletter.

My very first pageant was Miss Texas International; I didn’t even place. But I was bitten by the pageant bug, and so I set my sights on a pageant that would inspire me to challenge myself in every possible way: Miss Texas USA.

In preparation — despite having gotten down to 120 pounds and stayed there for three years — I hired the most sought-after fitness trainer in the pageant world. After carefully assessing my diet, he told me “First thing you are going to need to do is quit drinking those protein shakes after you work out.”

Muscle on a woman, he explained, is not attractive in this world. (It turns out that the trainer is known for specializing in reducing hip measurements.)

Antonia Okafor, in her sash and crown as Miss Dallas.Courtesy Antonia Okafor

As I continued to prepare to appear before hundreds of people in a bathing suit, I learned more about what was expected: A muscular build wasn’t celebrated, large breasts were something that could easily be purchased months in advance and stick-thin arms were the pageant girl ideal.

And then, a few days before the pageant, Miss Dallas USA said to me, “I hope we have a judge that appreciates athletic bodies. “

“We both have athletic body types,” she explained, “and that usually doesn’t fly with them.”

Still, I was confused: I naively thought the swimsuit competition was about how healthy I had become, how I had lost 120 pounds and was in the best shape of my life.

The divide between how the swimsuit competition was marketed and actually functioned became crystal clear after the Miss Texas USA dress rehearsals, when our chaperone preceded to body shame certain girls.

“I’m not going to call out any names here,” our chaperone bellowed while bustling into the changing room backstage. “But if you have a little too much junk in the trunk — and you know who you are —then you need to make sure that stuff is completely covered up.”

Feminism and femininity can — and do — go hand in hand, but neither means or even implies that you must look “good” in a bathing suit.

I looked at all the women — mostly women of color — who may have fit that description, none of whom was showing anything inappropriate for a swimsuit. We looked at each other with knowing glances and fading smirks.

“It’s not attractive,” she continued. We understood: Our bodies were not welcome there.

“I bet she doesn’t care about the purchased double Ds that happen to slip out of these custom made swimsuits,” I said under my breath. The other girls nodded.

Still, in spite of all of that, I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world. I learned a lot, including how to do my own professional hair and makeup, how to walk, talk and speak with poise and boldly stand up and speak out about a cause you believe in (granted-of course-it fit what that system deemed “acceptable”) and that the unpleasant caricature of “pageant girls” bore no relationship to the strong, impressive women I met in the pageant circuit.

And I learned that the swimsuit competition was never really about my personal fitness.

I learned that the swimsuit competition was never really about my personal fitness.

So the swimsuit competition will not be missed, and Miss America is helping to lead the way. The organization has already produced two former Miss Americas-turned-candidates, Erika Harold and Mallory Hagan (who are both currently running for public office) and a sisterhood that could rival any national sorority

And it will continue to produce educated, bold, confident young women who set goals and accomplish them, and hopefully ones who are encouraged to lift up other women instead of tear them down. Most importantly, it will set the stage for other systems to make the necessary changes they need but until now have been too afraid to implement.

Feminism and femininity can — and do — go hand in hand, but neither means or even implies that you must look “good” in a bathing suit. And I’m glad to see Miss America recognize that, too.

Antonia Okafor is the current Miss Dallas International 2018 and the founder and president of EmPOWERed, an organization devoted to the second amendment and self-defense rights of women on college campuses. Her written work has been published in The New York Times and The Hill and she frequently appears as a commentator on Fox News, CNN, BBC and Sinclair Broadcasting.

(CNN) — For the first time, top beauty pageants — Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, Miss America, Miss Universe and now, Miss World — have crowned black women as their winners at the same time.

And that’s a big deal if you know pageant history.

Beauty pageants early in their histories, some dating back to the 1920s, barred women of color from participating. Even after organizations began changing their rules to accept women of all races, there was still a lingering frustration and opposition to join.

Only in the last 50 years have black women become more prevalent in these competitions. Janelle Commissiong was the first black Miss Universe in 1977, Vanessa Williams was the first black Miss America in 1983, and Carole Anne-Marie Gist, the first black Miss USA contestant, was crowned in 1990. The following year Janel Bishop became the first black Miss Teen USA.

When Toni-Ann Singh of Jamaica was crowned as Miss World on Saturday, she joined a historic group of black women, along with 2019 Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, 2019 Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris, 2019 Miss America Nia Franklin and 2019 Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi.

Here’s what you should know about these five women:

Miss World plans to be a doctor

Singh, 23, from Morant, Jamaica, graduated from Florida State University with degrees in psychology and women’s studies. She plans to enroll in medical school soon, according to the Miss World website.

“I will continue to be an advocate for women,” she said, after winning the Miss World Jamaica crown in September. “I believe women are the lifeblood of our community. So, I will continue to inspire and work with them, so they understand just how great their potential is.”

Miss Universe fights against gender-based violence

Tunzi hails from the town of Tsolo in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Along with English, the 26-year-old speaks Xhosa and has launched a social media campaign against gender-based violence.

In a recent Instagram post, she called on her fellow South Africans to write love letters pledging support for women in her country.

“It is my hope that these pledges will start, and continue a conversation around gender-based violence,” Tunzi wrote. “We have to start the narration where right-thinking people act as role models for those who think it’s okay to mistreat women.”

At the Miss Universe pageant, Tunzi spoke about how conventional beauty standards haven’t typically included skin and hair like hers, encouraging women to embrace themselves and love who they are.

“I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me — with my kind of skin and my kind of hair — was never considered to be beautiful,” she said in her last response before she was crowned. “I think it is time that that stops today. I want children to look at me and see my face and I want them to see their faces reflected in mine.”

Miss USA works on behalf of prisoners

Receiving three degrees from two universities, Kryst is a 28-year-old attorney with a mission to help reform America’s justice system.

Cheslie Kryst, 2019 Miss USA, has a law degree and MBA from Wake Forest. She also studied at the University of South Carolina.

Hailing from North Carolina, Kryst practices civil litigation for a law firm and has a passion for helping prisoners who may have been sentenced unjustly get reduced punishments, free of charge.

Kryst, who is licensed to practice in two states, earned both her law degree and MBA from Wake Forest University and completed her undergraduate work at the University of South Carolina.

In a video played during this week’s competition, Kryst told a story about how a judge at a legal competition suggested she wear a skirt instead of pants because judges prefer skirts.

“Glass ceilings can be broken wearing either a skirt or pants,” she said. “Don’t tell females to wear different clothes while you give the men substantive feedback on their legal arguments.”

Since then, she’s built a blog for women’s workwear fashion and volunteered for Dress for Success.

Miss Teen USA defies pageant beauty norms

Kaliegh Garris

When Garris took the Miss Teen USA stage Sunday, she did it with confidence as she wore her natural hair.

“I know what I look like with straight hair, with extensions, and with my curly hair, and I feel more confident and comfortable with my natural hair,” the 18-year-old from Connecticut told Refinery29.

When she began competing in pageants, Garris said she had to fight against beauty standards suggesting that straight hair was better than her natural curls.

There were people who told her how they thought she should style her hair, she said. But she ignored their criticism and went on to win the title of Miss Connecticut Teen USA with her natural hair and then Miss Teen USA.

Miss America says music helped her find herself

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ – NOVEMBER 20: Nia Franklin, Miss America 2019 visits the Pennsylvania Avenue School and meets the children who lined the hallway on November 20, 2018 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images)

Franklin remembers what music did for her. Now she tries to inspire children in the same way.

An opera singer, Franklin discovered her identity through music, she explained during the Miss America competition in September.

“I grew up at a predominately Caucasian school, and there was only 5% minority, and I felt out of place so much because of the color of my skin,” the 23-year-old North Carolina native said. “But growing up, I found my love of arts, and through music that helped me to feel positive about myself and about who I was.”

Representing New York, Franklin showed her passion for music when she sang “Quando m’en vo’” from Puccini’s “La Bohème.” Wowing the judges, she was crowned the 2019 Miss America.

This past year, she has been an advocate for the arts. She works with Sing for Hope, a nonprofit focused on helping people, including children and artists, through the power of music.

This story was originally published in May 2019 and has been updated to reflect the results of the Miss World pageant.

FAQ’s: Eligibility, Sponsorship and Pageant Weekend 101


What are the judging criteria and wardrobe requirements for the pageant?
INTERVIEW – You will appear before the judges “panel style”. The procedure will have you appearing in front of 2 panels of judges for a minimum of 2 minutes each. The judges will use this opportunity to consider your personality and overall presence. This is your chance to impress each judge with your opinions, your ability to communicate, and your overall sense of self. The judges will not be looking for rehearsed answers. They will have your Final Biography Form to use as a reference, but questions may be asked on any topic.

The most important thing to remember about the Personality Interview Competition is that it is ALL about your PERSONALITY! When it comes to deciding what you will wear for this competition, allow your personality to influence your decision. Teen USA contestants are urged to wear whatever they feel is appropriate for an interview, with this thought; have fun with it while presenting yourself in a confident manner (no jeans). USA contestants are urged to be more sophisticated with your wardrobe choices.

SWIMSUIT FOR MISS USA CONTESTANTS – Miss USA contestants may choose either a one or two-piece swimsuit in any print, pattern, or design. Look for a style that flatters your body type. The suit must be in good taste; therefore, no thongs or Brazilian cut. Pantyhose are not permitted, but you may use leg makeup. Oils and heavy body lotions should not be used. To keep your swimsuit from riding up in the back, there are products called “Firm Grip” and “It Stays.” These products can be obtained online or in pageant/dress stores. Shoes should be 3” or higher. Taupe, tan, neutral color or clear shoes are recommended. Wearing bright shoes for swimsuit competition will bring attention to your feet. We recommend choosing a quality-made competition swimsuit that will be appropriate for onstage. Pay special attention to the swimsuit lining, due to the bright stage lighting.

ACTIVEWEAR FOR MISS TEEN USA CONTESTANTS – Miss Teen USA contestants will wear an active outfit to wear in lieu of swimsuits. Active Wear tops must be form-fitting, full-length athletic tanks or crop tops (sports bras). Active Wear bottoms should be form-fitting athletic shorts, capris or leggings. No baggy pants or tennis/athletic skirts allowed. Active Wear shoes should be athletic tennis shoes that compliment your activewear outfit. Active Wear socks should be white or black ankle socks that are barely visible, if visible at all. While we understand that shoes may have logos on them, there are to be no logos, graphics, or brands on Active Wear apparel that is larger than the palm of your hand. No embellishment may be added to Active Wear tops or bottoms (sequins, rhinestones, etc.), no jewelry (other than simple stud earrings), hats or props of any kind may be worn.

EVENING GOWN – Judges focus on poise, overall appearance, and sense of fashion and style. No single detail of the gown, hair or make-up should garner attention. The overall effect should be a reflection of your personal style. You will need one evening gown. Choose your BEST color, a style that looks great on you and will show well on stage.

OPENING OUTFIT – Each Contestant will need a cocktail length dress (above the knee) or pantsuit for the opening of the Final Show on Sunday. It is to be primarily BLACK or primarily RED. The dress can have sequins, rhinestones or beading, but cannot have any other dominate colors than black or red. Select appropriate shoes that you will be able to move well in. The shoes should have at least a 3” heel. Be sure to complete this look with accessories of your choice.

Do I need a different gown for finals than I do for preliminaries?
No. We highly recommend wearing the same gown for both preliminaries and finals. Nearly all contestants wear the same gown for both.

What is the Opening Number outfit for?
At the beginning of one of the shows, each contestant will introduce herself to the audience during an upbeat, choreographed number (contestant will not sing, and the choreographed moves will be very easy – you do not need to be a dancer).

Do I need to pay for my hotel and food during pageant weekend?
No. Your hotel room and meals during the official weekend schedule are provided for you by the state pageant. If you choose to arrive the night before or stay the night after the pageant, your room for those nights would be at your own expense. If you would like extra meals, snacks, etc. you will be responsible for those costs and will not be able to charge them to your room.

How many contestants will I room with at the hotel?
Each contestant is paired with one other contestant to share each hotel room. Each room will have two beds, so each contestant will have her own bed. To be respectful to the contestant with whom you are sharing the room, only the two of you are allowed in your hotel room (no family or friends allowed at any time).

Who are the judges and where do they come from?
We are hard at work, searching the country for outstanding individuals to serve in these positions. Our judges are always from varied and exciting backgrounds and include some of pageantry’s most qualified individuals. We do not ask, or allow, judges to repeat these duties any two consecutive years.

Can anyone assist me while I am competing in the pageant?
Only contestants and staff are permitted in your hotel room, in the dressing room or backstage during the pageant weekend. Each contestant will share a room with another contestant. In order to keep the weekend organized, on schedule, and enjoyable for all participants, we have elected to limit the persons allowed into the contestant rooms. This way, one contestant doesn’t innocently dominate the room over the other by having a visitor, or visitors, coming and going. There will be female pageant personnel in the dressing rooms to assist you with some of your preparation for the show. You should do most of your show preparation in your hotel room, prior to your arrival at the dressing room before show time. There will be time during the weekend for you to visit with family and friends between show time and rehearsals.

Preparing for the pageant should be FUN and can be done on your own. Please note that you must be “self-sufficient” during the pageant weekend, which means that no hair stylists or makeup artists will be allowed to assist you. If you do work with professionals prior to the pageant, make sure that they prepare you to do your own hair and makeup and truly be “self-sufficient”. If you have any questions regarding your preparations or just need some extra encouragements…don’t hesitate to call us!

What should my family and friends wear to the pageant preliminaries and finals?
We recommend anything from business casual to formal wear for the pageant preliminaries and pageant finals.

Will I have time to visit with my family, friends, and out of town guests during pageant weekend?
Once you check in, contestants will have a packed schedule of activities, including meals, interviews, rehearsals and shows. You may also want to plan on arriving early or staying an extra day in the host city, to enjoy the experience with your guests. Time permitting, we will make every effort to include designated family meet and greet opportunities.

When will this year’s contestants be posted on the pageant website?
The photos will be posted on the state pageant website approximately one week prior to the state pageant. Note: The photo you submit as your Official Head Shot, in addition to your on-stage presence during pageant weekend, is what will be used when judged for Miss Photogenic.

Will the pageant be televised?
Right now, there are no plans to televise the state pageant, however the Miss USA Pageant is usually televised, and the Miss Teen USA Pageant is usually webcast from its location.

Can we videotape the pageant?
Videotaping by members of the audience is prohibited. You will have the opportunity to purchase videotape and photo packages from our official photographers and videographers.

Miss teen USA ditches swimsuits

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *