The post-swimsuit era for the Miss America pageant begins Wednesday night. It does so amid a revolt by state pageant officials unhappy with the way the decision to drop swimsuits was made, and who are demanding that top leadership, including chairwoman Gretchen Carlson, step down. The current Miss America, Cara Mund, has accused Carlson and CEO Regina Hopper of bullying and silencing her—allegations the two officials deny. A rep for opponents of the current leadership said 46 state organizations have signed letters calling for Carlson and Hopper to resign; only Arkansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, and Vermont have not signed, reports the AP.
To say that this year's pageant is unusual would be an understatement. It gets underway in Atlantic City's Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall amid the most turmoil it has seen since a reigning Miss America, Vanessa Williams, was forced to relinquish the crown in 1984 after nude photos of her surfaced. The first of three nights of preliminary competition begins with a big change: In past years, one talent and one swimsuit winner were named in each of the three preliminary nights. This year, instead of a swimsuit winner, the winner of an onstage interview will be named. Some have welcomed the changes as long overdue to make Miss America relevant to contemporary society, while others lament the loss of an integral part of what they say made the pageant a part of American cultural history. The preliminaries will not be televised; the finals will air on Sunday.