Speaking to reporters Monday, Leonard Horn, president and CEO of the Miss America Organization and executive producer of the telecast, claimed that this year's pageant--in a "major change from tradition"--will emphasize a woman's "personal choice."
And what exactly is this ground-breaking choice contestants must mull over? World hunger? Civil unrest? Illiteracy? No, nothing so mundane. This year the state representatives must decide whether to wear a one- or two-piece swimsuit.
Yes, for the first time in 77 years, Miss America hopefuls will have the option of donning a two-piece bathing suit, Horn announced. He was quick to add, however, that thong bikinis will not be allowed and that "the bottoms of the suits cannot be more than an inch below the navel." (A woman's "personal choice" only goes so far, we guess.)
Other "firsts" for this year's show, ironically titled "Everything Old is New," include the addition of an unnamed professional journalist who will come up with unscreened questions to be asked live to the five finalists and a title change for the evening gown competition, which will now be called the "evening wear competition" in an effort, producers said, to "encourage individuality."
In contrast to the past two years, viewers will not be voting by phone on any issues. In 1995, they overwhelmingly voted to keep the swimsuit competition, which many critics have called sexist and out-dated. Responding to similar criticism today, Horn said that the core of the show is "exhibiting women" but that he and the producers try to present the program as tastefully as they can.
Designed to make everything feel more elegant, there will be a brand-new stage, and the talent competition will be spread throughout the 2 1/2 hour program as opposed to clumped together in one segment. "It's difficult to keep the show entertaining while also sending the message that that it is not a beauty pageant but a scholastic competition," producer/director Jeff Margolis explained with a straight face.
Soap stars Eva LaRue and John Callahan were named as first-time hosts for the September 13 telecast. The All My Children costars are real-life husband and wife.