Contestants for Miss America Pageant

Miss America Milestones

With swimsuits dropped from the competition, FOTO looks back at other landmark moments ...

After decades of public debate and in the wake of the #MeToo movement, Miss America enters a new era today with the elimination of both the swimsuit and evening gown components of the long-running event. "We are no longer a pageant," said Gretchen Carlson, the chair of the Board of Trustees for the Miss America Organization. "We are a competition." In 1921, Atlantic City businessmen established the "bathing beauty" contest, hoping to extend the resort city’s summer tourism season. Over the years, the competition has evolved to become more inclusive and progressive. Here, a look back at other Miss America milestones.

MARGARET GORMAN, 1921 Hulton Archive/Getty Images MARGARET GORMAN, 1921 The first-ever Miss America, Margaret Gorman of Washington, D.C., was crowned in 1921. She was only 16 at the time. NORMA SMALLWOOD, 1926 Hulton Archive/Getty Images NORMA SMALLWOOD, 1926 In 1926, Norma Smallwood became the first Native American to win the Miss America crown, despite the contest's early rule requiring that "contestants must be of good health and of the white race." The rule was finally abolished in 1950. BESS MYERSON, 1945 Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images BESS MYERSON, 1945 Bess Myerson was the first Jewish winner of Miss America in 1945. After her victory, Myerson went on a national tour to preach against anti-Semitism. She was also the first Miss America to receive a scholarship: she was awarded $5,000 to attend university. VANESSA WILLIAMS, 1983 Bettmann/Bettmann Archive VANESSA WILLIAMS, 1983 In 1983, Vanessa Williams became the first African-American to be named Miss America. But she was forced to give up her crown a year later, after unauthorized nude photos of her were published in Penthouse magazine. Williams was replaced by Suzette Charles from New Jersey, who is also African American, and went on to forge a successful film and stage career. ANGELA PEREZ BARAQUIO, 2001 TOM MIHALEK/AFP/Getty Images ANGELA PEREZ BARAQUIO, 2001 Angela Perez Baraquio, a Filipina from Hawaii, was the first woman of Asian descent to be crowned Miss America. She was also the first teacher to win the contest. NICOLE KELLY, 2013 Donald Kravitz/Getty Images NICOLE KELLY, 2013 Nicole Kelly, who was born without a forearm, competed as Miss Iowa in 2013. Although Kelly did not win the big title, she later said, "Miss America was my ‘inciting incident’ to finding my pride in my difference." NINA DAVULURI, 2014 Donald Kravitz/Getty Images NINA DAVULURI, 2014 In 2014, Nina Davuluri became the first Indian-American to win the Miss America title, after performing a Bollywood dance during the talent competition.



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