CINCINNATI – While a new Miss America was crowned Sunday night, the sparkle on her iconic crown has been tarnished by revelations and disputes of the past year.
None of what's come out about the pageant and the organization behind it came as a big surprise to a former Miss Ohio who competed at Miss America.
Susan Kay Wyatt, Miss Ohio 1988, lived in Cincinnati years ago. She’s out this week with a new book entitled, "No Crown Required."
Wyatt said wanting to see her own 17-year-old daughter be true to herself inspired Wyatt to write a book about what beauty and competition should be.
“I've talked to my daughter about different kinds of beauty … all her life … ever since she was little,” Wyatt told WCPO.
Wyatt said she wants her daughter to love the body she was given, not somebody else’s idea of what a woman’s body should look like. Wyatt says she hopes Miss America Chairwoman Gretchen Carlson's move to eliminate the swimsuit competition will help women embrace fitness over measurements.
“If you look at the Miss America stage, you can't really tell them apart because they all look alike because they're all built the same,” Wyatt said. “That's my beef with the Miss America pageant. It doesn't represent everybody.”
And in the midst of the "Me Too" movement, Wyatt says she had an ah-ha moment while judging this year's Miss Ohio pageant.
“All of their bodies were beautiful. Now I’m supposed to rate them on a scale from 1 to 10, and I just got really creeped out,” she said. “The other thing that hit my mind was I just interviewed you for a job, and now it would be like coming out of an interview and saying, ‘All right, we've interviewed you and now we'd like to see you in your underwear.’ That's how it felt to me.”
Carlson had pledged that the Miss America pageant would no longer judge candidates on outward physical appearance. But while Carlson was hoping to make changes, last year’s Miss America, Cara Gund, accused Carlson of bullying her and others. Gund and other Miss Americas called for Carlson to resign.
“What this brought up,” Wyatt said, “was the bullying of women against women. And the power struggles that women have.”
Long before Gund’s accusations, Wyatt had begun writing about this in her book - for her daughter and yours.
“The biggest message is the healing of a damaged sisterhood - how we don't support each other as women,” Wyatt said.
No matter how the pageant proceeds, Wyatt says the Miss America remains relevant - that a woman who works to be fit and knows her personal style, talents and opinions will have success.
With or without the crown.
“There is no crown required,” Wyatt said.
As a former Miss Louisiana contestant, WCPO Anchor Julie O’Neill wrote a column last week about her own experience with the swimsuit competition. She’d like you to read it on her Facebook page (Julie O’Neill WCPO) and give her feedback.