"I think they feel more empowered that they don't have to do things such as walk in a swimsuit for a scholarship," she says of young girls who may aspire to follow in her footsteps.

By Renee Cherry
Photo: Tom Briglia / Getty Images

When Gretchen Carlson, the chairwoman of the Miss America board of directors, announced that the pageant would no longer include a swimsuit portion, she was met with both praise and backlash. On Sunday, New York's Nia Imani Franklin won the first swimsuit-free pageant. When speaking with the press afterward, she talked about the recent adaptations to the national pageant, calling out the decision to nix the swimsuit competition. (Related: Blogilates' Cassey Ho Reveals How a Bikini Competition Totally Changed Her Approach to Health and Fitness)

"These changes, I think, will be great for our organization," said Franklin, according to the Associated Press. "I've already seen so many young women reaching out to me personally as Miss New York, asking how they can get involved because I think they feel more empowered that they don't have to do things such as walk in a swimsuit for a scholarship. And I'm happy that I didn't have to do so to win this title tonight because I'm more than just that. And all these women onstage are more than just that." (Related: Mikayla Holmgren Becomes the First Person with Down Syndrome to Compete In Miss Minnesota USA)

ICYMI, Carlson announced the changes that would lead to a "Miss America 2.0" on Good Morning America back in June. From here on out, she said, judges won't "judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance." In addition to moving away from judging the contestants based on their looks, they hoped to put more emphasis on the talent and scholarship portion. "Throughout the competition, candidates will have opportunities to advocate for their social initiatives," the updated Miss America site reads. "And to demonstrate how they are uniquely qualified for the exciting, challenging 365-day job of Miss America." The change is an effort to bring the competition up to date during the #MeToo era, Carlson said in a statement, according to CNN. (Here's how the #MeToo movement is spreading awareness about sexual assault.)

Like Franklin, we can't say we're sorry to see the swimsuit portion go. It's about time that these women (or any woman for that matter) were not judged (let alone scored!) based on how they look in a bikini or otherwise. These intelligent and driven contestants can now be valued for their talents and passions, not given a ranking on how their butt looks in a sparkly two-piece.


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