Miss New Jersey: Showing off body on stage is empowering
ATLANTIC CITY — The decision by the Miss America pageant to eliminate the swimsuit and evening wear competitions is not supported by the reigning Miss New Jersey.
Kaitlyn Schoeffel said the eliminated portions of the competition help prepare contestants for life.
Schoeffel was reacting to Gretchen Carlson, chairwoman of the Miss America Board of Trustees, who said that the contestants will no longer be judged by their outward physical appearance.
“We are no longer a pageant. Miss America will represent a new generation of female leaders focused on scholarship, social impact, talent, and empowerment,” Carlson said.
Schoeffel called the changes "drastic" and said she felt bad for the contestants preparing for the Miss New Jersey pageant.
"They're now competing for a job they didn't even know they were competing for," Schoeffel told New Jersey 101.5. on Tuesday.
Carlson said on ABC's "Good Morning America" that contestants told the board they did not like being on stage in high heels and swimsuits, a sentiment Schoeffel said she has never heard.
The 2nd runner-up to Miss America 2018, Cara Mund, said she was in a group chat with her Miss America "sisters" and the current Miss New Jersey contestants after the announcement. Most of the contestants from both groups were upset at the decision.
"They work so hard to be physically fit and get in shape for swimsuit," Schoeffel said. "It's so rewarding for them after working so hard to be on stage and model in swimsuit. I have not experienced that any girl has not been comfortable up on stage."
Once she got used to it, Schoeffel said the swimsuit competition during her Miss American pageant was the most empowering moment of her life.
"I know that I worked so hard to achieve that healthy level of fitness. I was proud of it. When you're proud of yourself it's so exciting," Schoeffel said.
"If I wanted to be an news anchor, I have to look presentable. I'm not saying everyone has to be stick thin or a particular size or shape but you want to take pride in your appearance. Regardless of how you define the word beautiful, when you feel beautiful and comfortable and confident in your own skin it is the most empowering thing you could ask for," the Montclair State University broadcast journalism major said.
Schoeffel said that if she ever got to meet with Carlson she would suggest making the changes gradually and without eliminating one of the categories she said the pageant was built on. Instead, she would put additional focus on community service to help the public better understand it's importance.
The Miss America pageant is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 9, at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall. It will be broadcast on ABC.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.