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Former pageant contestants, organizers react to Miss America changes

The impact of recently announced changes to the Miss America pageant, including elimination of the swimsuit competition, is still being felt by other pageant organizers and former contestants.

The board's decision is part of an effort to take focus away from physical appearance.

"When I heard the news, I was pleasantly surprised," said Sarah Glitzer, who was crowned Miss Indiana USA in 2001, and who also competed in Miss America primaries. The Evansville native says she didn't like competing in the swimsuit portion, believing it took focus away from what she wanted to accomplish.

"I didn't want the focus to be there. I wanted it to be on what I can bring to the interview room, and who I was as a human being, and what I had to offer beyond what I looked like in a swimsuit," Glitzer says. "For me personally, I would've have much preferred to compete without a swimsuit portion."

She called the pageant board's decision to remove the swimsuit portion and change the evening gown competition a positive change, and one that moves the focus to a contestant's actions instead of a contestant's looks.

"By eliminating the focus on outward beauty, it really forces the goal to better know who they are and what they bring to the table as human beings," she says.

"It's kind of mixed. I've had a few phone calls already, asking, 'Hey are you taking the swimsuit portion out,?'" says Heather Knight, who runs the beauty pageant for the Henderson County Fair, referring to reaction from others involved in the local pageant.. She says the changes make sense to her, adding it could encourage more to compete, and change perceptions.

"We want all women to feel like they're important, especially children, they need all the encouragement they can get in our country today. Anything I can do, or our community can do, to make them feel better and participate, we want them to do that," says Knight.

While Knight says it's too late to take out the swimsuit portion for this year's pageant, she  they will re-evaulate the situation for next year's edition.

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(This story was originally published on June 6, 2018)

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