After years of controversy, the Miss America swimsuit competition is officially a thing of the past.

The Miss America Organization announced its decision on its official Twitter account today with a video clip of a white bikini going up in smoke.

A statement on the official Miss America Organization website says the 51 women who will compete on September 9th in Atlantic City will be the first to “no longer be judged on outward physical appearance.”

Instead of the swimsuit portion, the statement continues, “each candidate will participate in a live interactive session with the judges, where she will highlight her achievements and goals in life and how she will use her talents, passion, and ambition to perform the job of Miss America.”

The talent portion of the competition will remain, as will the evening gown portion—with changes in how it’s judged. Gretchen Carlson, Chair of the Board of Trustees for the organization and 1989 Miss America, said in a Good Morning America interview that, “We’re no longer judging women when they come out in their chosen attire—their evening wear, whatever they choose to do. It’s gonna be what comes out of their mouth that we’re interested in, when they talk about their social impact initiatives.”

Carlson says it also means the Miss America competition is now exactly that—a competition, instead of a pageant. 

It’s a move designed to make the 97-year-old annual event more inclusive to women of all shapes and sizes, and one that will undoubtedly change the feel of the televised event and create some backlash. Carlson admits change can be difficult, but says this one is important in light of the “me too” movement and a nationwide shift in women’s empowerment. 

“Who doesn’t want to be empowered, learn leadership skills and pay for college and be able to show the world who you are as a person from the inside of your soul?” Carlson said. 

As a mother of three daughters—and someone who was once a little girl glued to the pageant on TV each year—it sounds like an incredibly smart move to me. We spend so much time and energy teaching our daughters the value of their hearts and minds. We want them to grow up secure in the knowledge that their worth isn’t defined by the size they wear or how outwardly beautiful they are—and no longer judging girls for exactly those things feels much more in line with that message. We’ve long known who our daughters become is limited only by their own determination, not by their physical appearance or their ability to strut down a runway—and today, the Miss America Organization proved to girls everywhere that they believe it, too. 

Carolyn Moore

Carolyn traded a career in local TV news for a gig as a stay-at-home mom, where the days are just as busy and the pay is only slightly worse. She lives in flyover country with her husband and four young kids, and occasionally writes about raising them at Assignment Mom