Political commentary replaces swimsuit competition at Miss America pageant

The Miss America pageant, aired Sunday on ABCDIS, +0.77% , was expected to have a different look this year, as the first iteration with no swimsuit competition. It also had a new tenor, with contestants from Virginia, West Virginia and Michigan, in a dramatic departure from the studiously apolitical and even comically anodyne insights expressed in the past, staking out positions on national-anthem kneeling, willfully divisive politics and public-health dereliction.

Here’s Miss Michigan Emily Sioma, taking up the issue of the Flint, Mich., water crisis in her introductory remark:

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The pageant’s winner, Nia Franklin, representing New York, reportedly said that becoming the first woman crowned Miss America without having to ply the stage in a swimsuit was meaningful. “I’m happy that I didn’t have to do so to win this title tonight because I’m more than just that,” Franklin continued. “And all these women onstage are more than just that.”

Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox NewsFOX, +0.27%FOXA, +0.25%personality who heads the Miss America Organization (she took the crown herself in 1989), said earlier this year that the pageant — which she hopes to see position itself more as a scholarship competition than a beauty pageant — aims to move past appearance-based judgments, “because we are interested in what makes you, you.”

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