This beauty pageant is getting a makeover. Miss Teen USA plans to eliminate the swimsuit competition, the parent organization Miss Universe announced, according to USA Today.
Instead, the 51 competitors will walk down the runway in athleticwear. The swimsuit category has faced criticism in the past for exploiting and sexualizing young women and failing to promote diverse body types. Pageant organizers have long argued that the swimsuit competition was intended to showcase athleticism. The new activewear portion will increase the focus on the health, wellness and fitness of the young ladies.
This year’s Miss Teen USA pageant, which features women ages 14 to 19 from all 50 states plus Washington D.C., will be held in Las Vegas on July 20. Contestants will be judged on a personal interview and an evening gown category, as well as on athleticwear.
The current Miss Teen USA, Katherine Haik of Louisiana, told USA Today she’s excited to see the athleisure trend come to the pageant world. “As a member of a softball team and a competitive dance team, I spend a lot of time in athleticwear,” she said. “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 Universe president Paula Shugart wrote in a memo to state directors that the new athleticwear category will celebrate the women in a more positive way, according to USA Today. “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.”
Earlier this month, Julianne Hough, the host and creative producer for this year’s Miss USA events, hinted that change may be coming to the pageants. “There’s definitely some work I think still to be done, that’s where we’ve been talking with the producers,” she told the news website of the swimsuit portion. “In the next few years we may grow from that, but let’s see where this year goes.”
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