Local Pageant Competitors React To Miss America Swimsuit Change

Local Pageant Competitors React To Miss America Swimsuit Change

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Joelle Leek is finishing up her senior year at LaFargeville Central School, but she has more than just graduation to look forward to. Leek, who was crowned Miss Thousand Islands last year, will be competing in the Miss New York competition at the end of June.

But it will be her last time competing in the swimsuit competition.

"Now that it's the last time, you got to really give it all you got and enjoy every moment because that's the last time I'm going to be able to do it," Leek.

Miss America announced on Tuesday that it will no longer feature a swimsuit competition and instead it will be replaced with an interactive question and answer session about contestants goals and achievements.

It's part of a broader change. The evening gown competition will also be revamped and the organization will no longer stage a beauty pageant, but rather a competition that will be more inclusive of women of all sizes.

Locally, the Miss Thousand Islands competition is an official preliminary local pageant in the Miss America Organization and will also be following the changes starting with its competition this August.

“I think it will be a change that many of the contestants embrace, to be judged for their character and their good deeds and their ambitions and their accomplishments rather than their physical outward beauty is something that's been coming about for a long time and it's a positive change for everybody,” said Shelby Cohen, co-executive director.

Leek says she's glad the organization is becoming more inclusive but says the swimsuit portion was her favorite part of the competition and she's sad to see it go.

"Walking around in a bikini and stilettos in front of a panel of judges is definitely not a comfortable thing to do but it's very empowering once you do it and rock it, you feel confident in yourself," said Leek.

It's a feeling shared by Watertown resident Allison Crossman, a veteran of the Miss America organization, who made it to Miss New York 3 times. She says she understands why it was eliminated.

"I don't agree with it. I think the swimsuit portion is something that I always really pushed myself to prepare for and it made me better not only physically, but mentally because it gave me the confidence I needed to feel like I could be in front of people in a swimsuit,” she said.

The changes will take place in the Miss America competition in Atlantic City this September. The Miss New York competition at the end of June will have the swimsuit competition included this year.

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