Miss Illinois, contestants react to Miss America changes - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Miss Illinois, contestants react to Miss America changes

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MARION, Ill. -- After nearly 100 years, Miss America is making some major changes. It is scrapping its swimsuit and evening gown competitions to make women feel more empowered. 

Ashley Hatfield, Executive Director of Miss Illinois, says the change to stop holding the swimsuit competition will help judges focus more on the women's personalities. 

"This is just an initiative to shift the focus more to what our women have to say, and their communication skills and what impact they're having on society," Hatfield said. 

Miss Illinois, Abby Foster, sees the change as a positive one, "It's just meant to empower us and make us feel more powerful and include all types of people."

Several other contestants like Miss Quincy, Taylor Hardy, agree, "I think there's still a way to teach children, or children and contestants, that you really need to focus on your health." 

But others have mixed feelings after they say they worked hard to achieve their fitness goals to feel swimsuit-ready on the pageant stage. 

"It's a little bit difficult for me, because I've worked really hard in the gym for the past ... a lot of months really," said Miss Southern Illinois Brittany Albrecht. 

Instead of including a swimsuit portion in the competition, contestants will take part in a live interactive session with the judges, during which they'll be be asked to explain their passion, intellect and comprehension of the responsibilities that come with being crowned Miss America.

To be clear, Miss America is now a competition and not a pageant. 

The changes come nearly six months after the group's former CEO Sam Haskell stepped down when emails in which he used vulgar language to discuss some of the women involved in Miss America were made public.

The changes will take affect for Miss America this year during its show in September. The changes at the state and local level will not take place until 2019.

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