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Miss America Axes Swimsuit Competition, Won’t Judge Women on ‘Outward Physical Appearance’

The Miss America pageant is re-branding itself as competition in which judges will now evaluate candidates based on their brains rather than their brawn.

Gretchen Carlson, who chairs the organization’s Board of Trustees, announced the unprecedented changes Tuesday on Good Morning America, which include scrapping the event’s nearly 100-year-old swimsuit contest.

“We are no longer a pageant,” Carlson said. “We are a competition. We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance. That’s huge.”

The swimsuit portion of the program will no longer continue in September when Miss America holds its competition in Atlantic City.

Carlson said the evening gown segment would be revamped, but that contestants would be appreciated for their statements over their attire.

“Whatever they choose to do, it’s going to be what comes out of their mouth that we’re interested in when they talk about their social impact initiatives.”

The changes, Carlson explained, are about being “open, transparent” and “inclusive” to women of every shape and size.

“We’ve heard from a lot of young women who say, ‘We’d love to be a part of your program but we don’t want to be out there in high heels and a swimsuit,’ so guess what, you don’t have to do that anymore,” she said.

Some Miss America executives, including the CEO, resigned after coming under scrutiny during the #MeToo era for sexist emails about contestants, forcing the organization to take a hard look at its leadership.

As someone who’s been a leader in the fight against sexual misconduct, suing former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes who eventually resigned, Carlson said it’s given her perspective on the competition’s evolution.

“This is a new beginning and change can sometimes be difficult, but I know a lot about change,” she said. “Thousands of women have been inspired to know that they can stand up and speak up and their voices will be heard, and if I’ve been a beacon of hope to any women in that process, it has been worth it.”

Watch the clip above, via ABC News.

[Image via screengrab]

Follow Amy Russo on Twitter: @amymrusso

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