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Miss Teen USA Drops the Swimsuit Competition for Athletic Wear

Needless to say, The Miss Universe Organization wasn’t too thrilled with John Olivier when the above segment aired in 2014. (Skip to minute 13:00 for a brilliant analysis of the pageant’s true intent as demonstrated by the continued inclusion of the dated swimsuit portion.) However, it appears Olivier and likeminded individuals’ protestations didn’t fall on deaf ears. The pageant — well, its junior iteration — is finally getting a much-needed update.

Miss Teen USA, which features 15- to 19-year-olds, will no longer include a swimsuit competition, effective immediately. Beginning with this July’s Las Vegas-based spectacle, the 33-year-old beauty pageant will feature a more body-positive athletic wear competition in lieu of its swimwear segment.

“This decision reflects an important cultural shift we’re all celebrating that empowers women who lead active, purposeful lives and encourage those in their communities to do the same,” explained Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization. “Our hope is that this decision will help all of Miss Teen USA’s fans recognize these young women for the strong, inspiring individuals they are.” (It also reflects a desire to silence critics who felt that the swimsuit competition objectified young women’s bodies.)

Katherine Haik, the reigning teen queen, echoed Shugart’s statements: “I have been an athlete my entire life. As a member of a softball team and a competitive dance team, I spend a lot of time in athletic wear.” She continued, “This new direction for Miss Teen USA is a great way to celebrate the active lives that so many young women lead and set a strong example for our peers.”

According to Julianne Hough, host and creative director of events for Miss USA, the Miss Universe Organization’s other pageants, Miss Universe and Miss USA, might also be due for an upgrade, but the future remains unclear: “There’s definitely some work I think still to be done, that’s where we’ve been talking with the producers,” she told USA Today. “In the next few years we may grow from that, but let’s see where this year goes.”

It’s encouraging to see the Miss Universe Organization, which markets itself as a scholarship program, present its emphasis on physical traits from a more substantive lens — if only within its youngest age bracket. The organization still has a long way to go in terms of inclusion but, like the fashion industry, it’s slowly turning the boat around. Case in point: This news follows the crowning of Missouri’s Erin O’Flaherty, who will be the first openly gay woman to compete for Miss America.

[ via Mashable ]