Gretchen Carlson abruptly resigns as chair of Miss America Organization

June 5 , 2019

by Yvette Thomas

Gretchen Carlson
Gretchen Carlson (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC)

After a controversial 18-month reign, Gretchen Carlson has resigned as chair of the Miss America Organization. She has been replaced by former South Dakota secretary of state Chantel Krebs, with attorney Brenda Keith appointed to the position of vice-chair. In 2018, Carlson signed a deal with A&E Networks to produce documentaries about women’s issues. She signed a deal with the ICM Partners agency in April 2019, according to Deadline.

Carlson, who was named chair of the Miss America Organization in January 2018, spearheaded the massive changes that the Miss America Organization implemented in 2018. The changes included eliminating the swimsuit competition, which was replaced with more interview time for the contestants; changing the show’s name from the Miss America Pageant to the Miss America Competition; and no longer judging the contestants for their physical looks. The evening gown portion of the show remained, but the contestants were no longer judged on how they looked in the gowns. The contestants also wore more casual business attire during another part of the competition. Instead of being judged by their looks, the contestants are being judged on various other factors, such as their poise, how they answer questions, their personalities, intelligence, talent and personal accomplishments.

The big changes to the Miss America show didn’t come without a lot of controversy. People opposed to the changes include several pageant officials and contestants on the state and local levels, former Miss America contestants and thousand of petitioners who have demanded that Carlson and other Miss America Organization leaders resign.

Miss America 2018 Cara Mund was also among the critics. In August, she went public with an open letter voicing her disapproval of the new policies and leadership. In the letter and in many subsequent interviews, Mund accused Carlson and other Miss American Organization leaders of bullying her and excluding her. The Miss America Organization issued this statement in response to Mund’s claims: “The Miss America Organization supports Cara. It is disappointing that she chose to air her grievances publicly not privately. Her letter contains mischaracterizations and many unfounded accusations. We are reaching out to her privately to address her concerns.” Carlson also went on Twitter to deny the claims. There also many supporters of the new changes for the Miss America show, but they weren’t as vocal as the critics were.

Miss America 2018 Cara Mund crowns Miss America 2019 Nia Imani Franklin (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC)

Despite the controversy, Mund was all smiles on stage as she fulfilled her duties of crowning Miss America 2019 (Nia Imani Franklin), during the Miss America Competition in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on September 9, 2018.

Franklin, who is a native North Carolina, graduated from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, with a bachelor’s degree in music composition. In 2017, she earned her master of fine arts degree in music competition from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Franklin moved to New York City after being selected as a 2017 William R. Kenan Jr. fellow with the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ education division.

Carlson has a bachelor’s degree in organizational behavior from Stanford University. She was Miss America 1989. After winning the Miss America crown and graduating from college, she began a career in TV journalism. Carlson was an anchor at Fox News for several years, until 2016, when she filed a sexual-harassment suit in against then-Fox News chairman Roger Ailes. She claimed that Ailes demoted and later fired her from Fox News after she refused his sexual advances. The lawsuit was settled later that year, and Ailes resigned. He died of complications from hemophilia in 2017.

In addition to the change in leadership in 2019, the Miss America Competition has changed U.S. networks from ABC to NBC. The date and location of this year’s Miss America Competition are to be announced.

July 23, 2019 UPDATE: NBC has announced that the Miss America Competition to crown Miss America 2020 will take place on December 19, 2019, at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. It’s a change from the show’s tradition of taking place in September at the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

2019 Miss America Competition: Miss New York Nia Imani Franklin crowned the winner

September 9, 2018

by Yvette Thomas

Miss America 2019 Nia Amani Franklin
Miss America 2019 Nia Imani Franklin (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC)

Miss New York title holder Nia Imani Franklin, 25, was crowned Miss America 2019 at the Miss America Competition that took place at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on September 9, 2018. “Dancing With the Stars” judge Carrie Ann Inaba and media personality Ross Matthews hosted the show, which was televised in the U.S. on ABC. The grand prize is $50,000 in scholarship money, with the requirement of numerous personal appearances and other commitments as Miss America during her the year of her reign.

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

For the talent segment of the show, Franklin did an operatic vocal of “Quando m’en vo”” from “La Bohème.” In the final round of the competition, Franklin was asked how being Miss New York prepared her for her being Miss America judge Ali. Franklin answered, “I have New York grit. I have moved over five times because of subletting in New York. It can be a little difficult because of the pricey rent, but I’ve overcome that. And also, as a New Yorker, I understand what it takes to work hard. I came up on a Lincoln Center fellowship because I’m an artist, and I’m really excited to just share my platform my social impact advocating for the arts and make sure all students have access to a quality education.”

Miss Florida Taylor Tyson, Miss Connecticut Bridget Oei, Miss America 2019 Nia Imani Franklin, Miss Louisiana Holli’ Conway and Miss Massachusetts Gabriela Taveras (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC)

Rounding out the Top 5 contestants were Miss Connecticut Bridget Oei (first runner-up); Miss Louisiana Holli’ Conway (second runner-up); Miss Florida Taylor Tyson (third runner-up); and Miss Massachusetts Gabriela Taveras (fourth runner-up).

It was the first Miss America show to take place since the massive changes that the Miss America Organization implemented in 2018 under its new leadership headed by chairperson Gretchen Carlson. The changes included eliminating the swimsuit competition, which was replaced with more interview time for the contestants; changing the show’s name from the Miss America Pageant to the Miss America Competition; and no longer judging the contestants for their physical looks. The evening gown portion of the show remained, but the contestants were no longer judged on how they looked in the gowns. The contestants also wore more casual business attire during another part of the competition.

Miss America 2019 Nia Imani Franklin (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC)

Instead of being judged by their looks, the contestants were judged on various other factors, such as their poise, how they answered questions, their personalities, intelligence, talent and personal accomplishments.

The big changes to the Miss America show didn’t come without a lot of controversy. People opposed to the changes include several pageant officials and contestants on the state and local levels, former Miss America contestants and thousand of petitioners who have demanded that Carlson and other Miss America Organization leaders resign.

Miss America 2018 Cara Mund is also among the critics. In August, she went public with an open letter voicing her disapproval of the new policies and leadership. In the letter and in many subsequent interviews, Mund accused Carlson and other Miss American Organization leaders of bullying her and excluding her. The Miss America Organization issued this statement in response to Mund’s claims: “The Miss America Organization supports Cara. It is disappointing that she chose to air her grievances publicly not privately. Her letter contains mischaracterizations and many unfounded accusations. We are reaching out to her privately to address her concerns.” Carlson also went on Twitter to deny the claims. There also many supporters of the new changes for the Miss America show, but they weren’t as vocal as the critics were.

Miss America 2018 Cara Mund crowns Miss America 2019 Nia Imani Franklin (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC)

Despite the controversy, Mund was all smiles on stage as she fulfilled her duties of crowning Miss America 2019.

Franklin, who is a native North Carolina, graduated from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, with a bachelor’s degree in music composition. In 2017, she earned her master of fine arts degree in music competition from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Franklin moved to New York City after being selected as a 2017 William R. Kenan Jr. fellow with the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ education division.

Final results Contestant(s)
Miss America 2019
  • New York (state) New York – Nia Franklin
1st runner-up
  • Connecticut Connecticut -Bridget Oei
2nd runner-up
  • Louisiana Louisiana – Holli’ Conway
3rd runner-up
  • Florida Florida – Taylor Tyson
4th runner-up
  • Massachusetts Massachusetts – Gabriela Taveras
Top 10
  • Alabama Alabama – Callie Walker
  • Colorado Colorado – Ellery Jones
  • Washington, D.C. District of Columbia – Allison Farris
  • Idaho Idaho – Nina Forest
  • Nebraska Nebraska – Jessica Shultis
Top 15
  • Indiana Indiana – Lydia Tremaine
  • Minnesota Minnesota – Michaelene Karlen
  • Oklahoma Oklahoma – Ashley Thompson
  • Washington (state) Washington – Danamarie McNicholl
  • Wisconsin Wisconsin – Tianna Vanderhei

Miss America Organization makes major changes: annual pageant changed to competition where contestants will not be judged on their looks

June 5, 2018

Miss America
Miss America 2018 contestants (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC)

The following is a press release from the Miss America Organization and ABC:

The board of trustees of the Miss America Organization announced  groundbreaking changes for the “The 2019 Miss America Competition,” effective this September, by declaring that the 51 women representing their home states and the District of Columbia will no longer be judged on outward physical appearance. “The 2019 Miss America Competition” airs live on ABC, SUNDAY, SEPT. 9 (9:00–11:00 p.m. EDT), from Atlantic City’s historic Boardwalk Hall.

This change in format signals the end of the swimsuit portion of the competition. In its place, each candidate will participate in a live interactive session with the judges, where she will highlight her achievements and goals in life, and how she will use her talents, passion and ambition to perform the job of Miss America.

The former evening gown competition will now give participants the freedom to outwardly express their self-confidence in evening attire of their choosing while discussing how they will advance their social impact initiatives. Talent, which has always been a distinguishing element of Miss America, will remain a highlight of the competition.

“We are no longer a pageant. Miss America will represent a new generation of female leaders focused on scholarship, social impact, talent and empowerment,” said Gretchen Carlson, chair of the board of trustees. ”We’re experiencing a cultural revolution in our country with women finding the courage to stand up and have their voices heard on many issues. Miss America is proud to evolve as an organization and join this empowerment movement.”

The job of Miss America is a 365-day a year commitment of serving as an empowerment and leadership mentor. In addition to gaining scholarships to further her education, Miss America will advocate for social issues important to her. In addition to this work, Miss America also serves as an
ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network and the city of Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“Miss America’s new mission statement is: ‘to prepare great women for the world and to prepare the world for great women,’” said Regina Hopper, president & CEO. “We want more young women to see this program as a platform upon which they can advance their desire to make a real difference and to provide them with the necessary skills and resources for them to succeed in any career path they choose.”

Tickets for “The 2019 Miss America Competition” are on sale this Friday, June 8, and can be purchased at ticketmaster.com.

About The Miss America Organization

The Miss America Organization, a 501(c) (4), is one of the most recognizable household names in America working to empower young women through education and service. The Miss America Organization is comprised of 51 licensed state organizations, including all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Miss America candidates contribute tens of thousands of community service hours annually and have raised over $17 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and Miss America scholarships since
2007. The Miss America Foundation, a 501(c) (3), provides academic, community service, and other scholarships to young women.

Miss America shakeup: Gretchen Carlson becomes board chair after several execs are ousted for sexually demeaning emails

January 2, 2018

by Colleen McGregor

Sam Haskell (far left) and Miss America 2018 Cara Mund (far right) at a Miss America press conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey,  in September 2017. (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC)

Gretchen Carlson, who was crowned Miss America 1989, has taken the reigns of the Miss America Organization by being named chair of the board. The announcement comes two weeks after a HuffPost article broke the news that several high-ranking Miss America executives made derogatory comments about former Miss America winners and contestants in email exchanges dating back to 2014 and beyond. As a result, 47 former Miss Americas called for the offending parties to be fired, and the following people have been ousted from the Miss America Organization (MAO):  Sam Haskell (who was CEO), Josh Randle (president), Lewis Friedman (who was lead writer for the Miss America telecast), Lynn Weidner (board chair) and Tammy Haddad (board member).  Dick Clark Productions, which produced the Miss America telecast on ABC, cut ties with MAO after the board initially failed to reprimand the offending parties.

Gretchen Carlson
Gretchen Carlson (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC)

Among the more derogatory comments in the mails: Friedman described former Miss Americas collectively as “cunts,” in an email exchange with Haskell, who laughed in response to the obscene insult. In an another email to Haskell, Friedman commented on the death of Miss America 1959 Mary Ann Mobley, and said that Miss America 1998 Kate Shindle (who was a vocal critic of Haskell) should have been the one to die. Haskell also expressed amusement at this comment.

Some of the people who were ousted from MAO also made derogatory comments about Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan after she gained weight. Haskell also spread gossip about Hagan’s sex life and seemingly went out of his way to damage her career. According to emails published by HuffPost, Haskell was apparently very angry that Brent Adams, a high-ranking MAO employee at the time, chose to date Hagan instead of Haskell’s daughter.

Carlson, a former Fox News anchor, famously sued the network and its then-chairman/CEO Roger Ailes in 2016 for sexual harassment. The lawsuit, which was settled out of court, resulted in dozens of women coming forward with stories about Ailes sexually harassing them, and Ailes resigned/was ousted from Fox News in 2016. (Ailes died of complications from a head injury in 2017.)

Carlson was also a target of Haskell’s and Haddad’s wrath in several emails. After Shindle wrote a book that criticized Haskell and some aspects of MAO, Carlson refused Haskell’s demand to have Shindle banned from Carlson’s Fox News show. Carlson is the first former Miss America to become chair of the MAO board. Also joining the board as part of the shakeup are former Miss America winners Shindle, Laura Kaeppeler (2012) and Heather French Henry (2000).

Miss America 2018 contestants in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in September 2017.
(Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC)

The Miss America Pageant, which awards scholarship money, has had its share of ups and downs since it began in 1921. The show’s telecast is not the powerhouse that it was before the 1980s. In the 2000s, the show’s ratings fell to its lowest points, and ABC dropped the pageant in 2004. From 2005 to 2010, the Miss America telecast bounced around on cable networks such as CMT and TLC before returning to ABC in 2011.  Over the decades, the show’s locations also changed from longtime site Atlantic City, New Jersey, to Las Vegas (from 2005 to 2013), and then back to Atlantic City in 2014. In 2014, a deal with Dick Clark Productions helped bring the Miss America pageant telecast back to a certain level of prestige, although the Miss America pageant (with competition from the Miss USA pageant) is not considered as important as it was in decades past. It has not yet been announced if Dick Clark Productions will go back to working with MAO now that these sweeping changes to MAO’s board have been made.