TULSA -- The Miss America Organization announced major changes to their competitions Tuesday.
Gretchen Carlson, chairwoman for Miss America, said they will no longer have a swimsuit competition.
The news sent shock waves through the Miss America community.
"Can you better yourself? Are you investing in yourself? Are you doing what you can to feel good in whatever piece of clothing you put on your body?" Emoly West-Walters, a former Miss. Oklahoma, said. "That is what swimsuit represents to me."
Carlson said the event will now be a competition and not a pageant. She said the organization will focus on giving scholarships rather than judging women on their appearances.
"We feel strongly that our organization has always been led by scholarship, by education, promoting civic awareness and taking young girls and making them more civic minded through this program," Susan Powell, Miss America 1981, said.
Several former Miss Oklahomas who have gone on to win Miss America said they believe this decision will bring the organization into the next era.
"I think the whole idea is to give the contestants more opportunity to show who they really are," Jennifer Barry, Miss America in 2006, said. "I think they are trying to expand the boundaries a little bit."
The swimsuit was a favorite for many who competed. It left an impression on West at a young age when she first started watching the Miss America competition.
"I don't remember thinking I have to look a certain way or I have to be skinny," West said. "It was, 'These are really impressive women' and that was the first goal I set for myself when I was 7."
Carlson also announced there will be changes to the evening gown competition. Contestants will be able to wear whatever they want. They hope to create a culture of inclusion.
"It's a good reason and it's a valid reason," Powell said. "We just hope that the results are what we want. We want to be more inclusive."
The Miss Oklahoma competition is underway in Tulsa right now. They will not see the changes until next year's competition.
They will be implemented in the Miss America Competition in September of this year.
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