For first time ever, swimsuit competition not part of Miss Kansas pageant

By  | 

PRATT, Kan. (WIBW) -- Young women are competing for thousands of dollars in scholarships this weekend at the Miss Kansas pageant in Pratt.

The competition includes a private interview with a panel of judges, talent, on-stage question and evening gown; but for the first time ever, contestants will not compete in swimsuit.

In June 2018, the Miss America Organization, headed by former Miss America Gretchen Carlson, announced it was eliminating the swimsuit competition.

After much opposition, yesterday Gretchen Carlson resigned from the board of directors.

The announcement has several people hoping new leadership will bring back the old competition.

"It teaches you poise and grace and goodness knows - confidence," says Miss Kansas 1990 Kim Dugger-Attwater.

She says the swimsuit competition isn't about being the skinniest, but having confidence being in your skin.

"There will always be someone who's smarter, there will be someone who's prettier, there will always be someone who has a better body," Attwater says, "but you have to be the best you that you can be at that moment. I felt like I was in that place at Miss America."

Miss Kansas 1997 Lesley Moss-Walden donated each year to sponsor the swimsuit preliminary award.

"Knowing what the job of Miss Kansas entails, and the job of Miss America entails, it requires a lot of physical stamina," Walden says.

She says the swimsuit competition shows judges which woman was the most dedicated. She says dedication is an important trait to have as Miss Kansas.

"Swimsuit was always won from the neck up, and when I say that, I mean that the woman that put herself forward, that had made every effort to be in the best physical form that she could be for that competition, usually was exhibiting pride in who she was, a lot of energy and enthusiasm and confidence."

Miss Kansas 2018 Hannah Klaassen competed in Miss America last September. It was the first time the national pageant didn't contain the swimwear competition.

"When I would go into high schools, and I would tell everyone 'This is Miss America 2.0. We got rid of swimsuit" You would hear an audible 'aww' from these high school boys," Klaassen says, "and that's when I knew we were moving in the right direction."

Last summer, the Miss Kansas Organization joined 21 other states on a petition calling for resignations of the Miss America Board of Trustees, including Gretchen Carlson. This year, the state pageant says it has embraced the changes.

"The new mission statement of 'preparing great women for the world and the world for great women' is something that we're excited to go forward with," says Lisa Perez-Miller, the Miss Kansas Organization President of the board of directors.

Walden says it wasn't just the swimwear competition that upset her.

"Most of the people that were disgruntled by the national organization were disgruntled by the lack of transparency and good governance, not just the decision to eliminate swimsuit."

She hopes the new leadership will reconsider the swimsuit and include the thousands of volunteers across the country in the conversation.

The Miss America Organization named Shantel Krebs, a former South Dakota Secretary of State, the new chairperson for Miss America.

Krebs competed alongside Walden as Miss South Dakota.

"I do believe that Shantel will be a strong advocate for the things that empower women to do well in the competition and as titleholders," says Walden. "I wish her all the best in taking an organization that needs a little boost right now and being successful and making Miss America bigger and better than it's ever been."

The Miss Kansas final competition is Saturday at 7 p.m. at Pratt Community College.