Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin likes competition’s changes, especially no swimsuits

Miss New York Nia Franklin reacts after being named Miss America 2019 on Sunday.
Miss New York Nia Franklin reacts after being named Miss America 2019 on Sunday.
(Noah K. Murray / Associated Press)

Miss America 2.0 crowned the first winner of its first post-scandal competition on Sunday.

After weeks of competition, Nia Imani Franklin earned the Miss America 2019 title and a $50,000 scholarship at Atlantic City’s Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, the birthplace of the 1921 competition. “Dancing With the Stars” judge Carrie Ann Inaba and TV personality Ross Matthews hosted the show on ABC.

Here’s what you need to know about the event:

The swimsuit portion was eliminated, among other rebranding


Miss America 2.0,” as it was rebranded this year in the wake of the #MeToo movement and a series of scandals, not only eliminated the controversial swimwear portion for the first time in its 98-year history but also aimed to delve deeper to find its latest winner, rather than judging the women solely on their “outward physical appearance.”

The erstwhile pageant has also been made over as a competition full of “candidates” and not “contestants,” said Miss America Organization chairwoman Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox News personality who won the title in 1989. The competition is now working to empower young women through education and service.

Commentary: Is the Miss America pageant — make that ‘competition’ — worth saving?

Fifty-one women representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia competed in preliminary contests earlier in the week, and during the final show, the remaining candidates were judged on their preliminary composite score (25%), their talent (30%), onstage interview (25%) and evening wear (20%).

The judges were former boxer Laila Ali, country star Jessie James Decker, former “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson, journalist Soledad O’Brien, radio personality Bobby Bones, singer Carnie Wilson and Dry Bar founder Alli Webb.

Miss New York Nia Franklin is crowned Miss America 2019 by last year's winner, Cara Mund.
(Noah K. Murray / Associated Press)

Former Miss America Cara Mund was there

Despite stirring up more controversy for the organization last month, Mund, the 2018 titleholder, sat in the audience during the show and appeared onstage — to a standing ovation — when she crowned Franklin. Mund recently trashed Carlson and the organization’s leadership by accusing it of “silencing” her and “bullying” her during her reign.

Miss New York won

Franklin brought the title back to the Empire State for the seventh time in Miss America history.

After her father was diagnosed with cancer, Franklin entered the competition so she could find a way to pay for school.

At age 5, she wrote her first song, which she later performed during a press conference. But for the talent competition, the classically trained opera singer — who studied at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts — performed an operatic selection from La Bohème. She also focused on equal opportunity and education in her interview answers.

Miss New York Nia Franklin, a classically trained opera singer, competes during the talent competition.
(Noah K. Murray / Associated Press)

Franklin welcomed this year’s changes and told the Associated Press she was glad the swimsuit competition was eliminated, because it enabled her to eat a little more.

“I’ve already seen so many young women reaching out to me personally as Miss New York asking how they can get involved because I think they feel more empowered that they don’t have to do things such as walk in a swimsuit for a scholarship,” she said.

“And I’m happy that I didn’t have to do so to win this title tonight because I’m more than just that. And all these women onstage are more than just that.”

As Miss America 2019, she’ll promote her social impact initiative “Advocating for the Arts” and work as the National Goodwill Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children by raising funds for children’s hospitals.

Miss Connecticut and Miss Louisiana were the runners up

Miss Connecticut Bridget Mary Oei, the Irish step-dancing candidate, was the first runner-up and earned a $25,000 scholarship. Miss Louisiana Holli’ Conway won a $20,000 scholarship.

The organization also doled out $5,000 STEM scholarships to Miss Massachusetts Gabriela Taveras, Miss Montana Laura Haller and Miss Nevada Alexis Hilts. Recipients of the Women in Business scholarships were Miss Hawaii Penelope Ng Pack and Miss South Dakota Carrie Wintle, who also earned $5,000 apiece.

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