It’s true– there won’t be any bikinis at this year’s Miss Teen USA. The swimsuit portion of the competition has been eliminated, and in its place will be a brand-new athletic-wear event. Read on to find out why swimsuits have been eliminated, and what former Miss Teen USA’s have to say about it.
Over the past few years, the swimsuit event has become increasingly seen as a means of objectifying women. USA Today writes, “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.”
Reigning Miss Teen USA, Katherine Haik, agrees with the organization’s decision to shift to athletic wear. Haik told USA Today, “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.”
The elimination of swimwear aligns with the decision of the Miss Universe Organization to also remove bikinis from their pageant. Furthermore, the change reflects the recent modernization of the pageant, with Miss Missouri’s Erin O’Flaherty competing as the first openly gay contestant this year, and DC’s Deshauna Barber, an Army officer, being crowned this year’s Miss USA.
In a letter to state directors, Paula Shugart, the president of the parent Miss Universe Organization, wrote,
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. 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.
Pageant coach Valerie Hayes believes the decision is a wise one, and will open up more parents to the idea of their daughters competing in local or state pageants. She believes that the swimsuit competition has been a source of concern for parents in the past, and putting an emphasis on athletic wear will sit well with those who may have felt they were exploiting their children by forcing them to wear bathing suits onstage.
The 2016 Miss Teen USA Pageant will be held tonight in Las Vegas.