FILM & TV

Here She is…Miss America

Congrats to Nia Imani Franklin!

Atlantic City, NJ was full of America's finest females on Sunday as the 92nd Miss America (Pageant? Contest? Competition?) took place at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall.

51 lovely ladies took the stage to strut their stuff, show off their smarts, and prove to the panel they have what it takes to represent the country as Miss America 2019.

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But only one woman could take home the crown and turn in her state sash for the super-sized version. And this time 'round, New York state's 25-year-old Nia Imani Franklin took first place, stealing the spotlight and the hearts of the judges, including Carnie Wilson, Laila Ali, Randy Jackson, Jessie James Decker, and other famous faces. Hosting the program was Carrie Ann Inaba, best known from Dancing with the Stars.

Along with the bragging rights that come with winning the first Miss America without the ever-popular swimsuit competition, Franklin took home a $50,000 scholarship and the aforementioned shiny crown. "The fourth runner up was Miss Massachusetts Gabriela Taveras; third runner up was Miss Florida Taylor Tyson; second runner up was Miss Louisiana Holli Conway, and the first runner up was Miss Connecticut Bridget Oei," as ABC summed up.

A few facts about Miss Franklin. She is a classical vocalist who belted out an impressive opera tune for her talent portion of the program. As per ABC, her "pageant platform is 'advocating for the arts'," making her musical strengths a nice support system for her creative cause. As per Hollywood Life, "She majored in music composition and has dreams of winning a Grammy."

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As CNN explains, "During the competition, Franklin, who is black, described how music helped her find her identity. 'I grew up at a predominately Caucasian school and there was only five percent minority, and I felt out of place so much because of the color of my skin. But growing up, I found my love of arts, and through music that helped me to feel positive about myself and about who I was.'"

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The Miss America Organization was renamed "Miss America 2.0" in an attempt to give the long-running entity a refresh, particularly amid scandal and controversy. From heads of the organization being dumped to rampant resignations to 2018's winner alleging a toxic workplace environment, and then some, Miss America could use some positive energy. Franklin may just be the face to help turn things around as she takes the year to engage, enlighten, and energize folks who have had their doubts that the show would, indeed, go on.

"It took a lot of perseverance to get here. I want to thank my beautiful family, my mom and my dad, who is a survivor of cancer," she shared after being crowned winner. Congratulations to this beautiful, bold, and bright young woman!


Melissa A. Kay is a New York-based writer, editor, and content strategist. Follow her work on Popdust as well as sites including TopDust, Chase Bank, P&G, Understood.org, The Richest, GearBrain, The Journiest, Bella, TrueSelf, Better Homes & Gardens, AMC Daycare, and more.


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If you still tune in to see who will be crowned Miss America, get ready for some notable changes to the pageant...

...or make that "competition," as Miss America will now be referred to as such. Miss America Organization chairwoman Gretchen Carlson (1989's winner) announced on Good Morning America that there is not only a new name, but a new focus. Say goodbye to the swimsuit portion and even the evening gowns will be gone. Women will be allowed to showcase their own style – be it donning a dress or a pair of dungarees.

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So, what will viewers tune in for? Moving forth, it will be all about skills, smarts, savvy, and strength. We've always been told it's what's on the inside that counts, so "perfect 10s" and supermodel looks will no longer factor in to who is crowned Miss America. There will be more time spent with the judges in "interactive sessions" where contestants can prove they've got what it takes to be declared winner.

In today's climate, judging women based on their looks seems outdated, although plenty of people watch Miss America, in part (or solely), for the bikini bodies and gorgeous gowns. Of course, what the women stand for and aspire to become is empowering and impressive, but does that make for a "competition" that is programming gold? We'll have to see how viewership pans out when the upcoming Miss America broadcasts on September 9. That said, Carlson claimed, "The swimsuit portion is not the highest rated section of the broadcast. Viewers seem to be more interested in the talent competition."

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Let's not forget, the Miss America Organization is a college scholarship provider. Bathing suits have nothing to do with higher education. Spring break doesn't count.

You may recall that Carlson was appointed to a leadership role within the organization when an email scandal broke late last year. The sex lives, looks, and IQs of former contestants were revoltingly ridiculed by former CEO Sam Haskell in exchanges with other higher-ups within the organization. He resigned after the messages were made public.

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More personality, less parading. A focus of brains over beauty will take this year's broadcast in a new direction. And if you want to see women in swimsuits, there's always spring break.


Melissa A. Kay is a New York-based writer, editor, and content strategist. Follow her work on Popdust as well as sites including TopDust, Chase Bank, P&G, Understood.org, The Richest, GearBrain, The Journiest, Bella, TrueSelf, AMC Daycare, and more.


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