Miss Teen USA pageant to ditch the bikini; swimsuits being replaced by athletic wear
Shift to 'celebrate women's strength and beauty in more constructive ways'
The Miss Teen USA beauty pageant will no longer feature contestants in swimsuits, its parent group, the Miss Universe organization, announced Wednesday.
Instead, the young women competing for the crown will be judged in a brand-new athletic wear competition, according to statement posted on the Miss Universe website.
One of America's highest-profile beauty pageants, Miss Teen USA typically features 51 young women, aged 15-19, in competition (representing the 50 states as well as D.C.) for the top title.
Today's announcement is designed to highlight athleticism among competitors, as well as general physical fitness.
"This new direction for Miss Teen USA is a great way to celebrate the active lives that so many young women lead and set a strong example for our peers," Katherine Haik, Miss Teen USA 2015, told USA Today.
As softball team member and competitive dancer, Haik added, she spends a lot of time in athletic wear.
The shift is meant to "celebrate women's strength, confidence and beauty in different, more constructive ways," Miss Universe president Paula Shugart said in a memo to state directors.
"This decision reflects an important cultural shift we're all celebrating that empowers women who lead active, purposeful lives and encourage those in their communities to do the same."
In recent years, the community has gradually widened to include contestants who might not have fit the previous mould of a pageant participant. For instance, an Army officer was crowned Miss USA 2016 earlier this month, while the upcoming Miss America pageant will see its first openly gay contestant competing.
In Canada, model and TV personality Jenna Talackova gained media attention in 2012 when she won a legal battle to be allowed to compete in the Miss Universe Canada contest, after being initially disqualified for being transgender.
The 2016 Miss Teen USA pageant will be held in Las Vegas on July 30.