Miss Universe Organization representatives announced Wednesday the swimsuit competition no longer would be a part of future Miss Teen USA contests. Miss Teen USA represents females from 15 to 19 years old.
With the goal of "celebrating young women who lead active, purposeful lives and encourage those in their communities to do the same," pageant leaders indicated they were enthused about the new direction into which they are sending the contest.
Dropping swimsuits is consistent with the overall rebranding of the Miss Universe Organization, which has shifted under WME-IMG, the talent agency that purchased it from former owner Donald Trump in September. The sale came after NBC and Univision dropped the broadcast of Miss USA following comments the Republican presidential candidate made regarding illegal immigrants, according to USA Today.
Most social media users are applauding the organization's new choice.
"BEST decision!" posted Summer Wilson.
"As a former Miss Washington Teen USA (1995), there was nothing more difficult than being paraded in front of millions (courtesy of TV) at the most awkward time of my life. Yes, I was fit, but there is so much judgment at that fragile and impressionable time of life. Being judged about how good I looked in a bikini was incredibly demoralizing. This is such a positive turn! Proud of the decision!"
Instead of bikinis, the 51 competing women (from the 50 states plus D.C.) will be judged in a brand-new athletic-wear competition, reports USA Today.
Pageant organizers in the past said swimsuit portions were intended to show off the athleticism of the competitors. But Miss Teen USA's transition to athletic wear is being interpreted as less exploitative and more focused on the importance of physical fitness for its younger participants.
"I have been an athlete my entire life. As a member of a softball team and a competitive dance team, I spend a lot of time in athletic wear," Katherine Haik, the reigning Miss Teen USA, told USA Today.
"This new direction for Miss Teen USA is a great way to celebrate the active lives that so many young women lead, and set a strong example for our peers."
Miss Universe President Paula Shugart stated in a memo that the decision about dropping swimsuits "reflects an important cultural shift we're all celebrating that empowers women." She said the hope is that this decision will help all of Miss Teen USA's fans recognize these young women for the strong, inspiring individuals they are.