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Contestants in the 2018 pageant will face an additional round of questioning this week that will focus on evaluating personality, say pageant organizers.Meanwhile, the swimsuit competition, arguably the most infamous part of the pageant, is still in effect, though long decried as a vestigial part of the event, reminiscent of a time when contestants' bust, hip and waist measurements were public information.When a woman wins the pageant, staff determine if she has a boyfriend, then advise her on how to proceed, especially in public, Cantrell says."They make it very clear that you're not to be seen with him," she says, currently tending to her budding country music career in Nashville with her fiance, Spencer Maxwell, 25, a former member of a police SWAT team (his tattoos initially worried pageant staff), who she met on Tinder before she won her state pageant.
(The next year, the pageant was losing its audience once again.) But the big Miss America scandal of 1999 had nothing to do with nude photos.
"I really wasn't supposed to be engaged as Miss America," says Cantrell, 22. Though attempts have been made to reinvigorate the pageant for younger audiences, no amount of rebranding can paper over Miss America's dubious history of "championing" women, critics say. Founded in 1921 as a spectacle to keep people on the boardwalk past Labor Day, Miss America remains an American antique, latched to a vintage rendering of the "ideal" woman.
"She's supposed to be America's sweetheart," she says of Miss America. "There she is, Miss America," goes the old song, crooned for years by pageant host Bert Parks.
As advertised, Miss America is, as John Oliver was dismayed to report in 2014, the largest provider of scholarships for women (the pageant had nonetheless hugely inflated its contributions).
Each year, contestants shrug off "pageant girl" stereotypes and tell us that Miss America is paying their way through college.