In the era of #MeToo and #TheFutureIsFemale, many wonder what is to become of producing pageants such as Miss America. With a recent controversial national leadership change at the Miss America Organization, all eyes are on what is ahead in its 2018 season.
From the perspective of the Miss District of Columbia franchise President – and 1997 Miss DC – Sonya Gavankar, both the local Miss DC and national Miss America competitions are stronger than ever.
“We’re two years away from Miss America’s one hundredth birthday, so there’s no better time to look at the relevancy of this competition, the work, the partnerships, and the phases of the competition,” Gavankar said.
The Miss America Organization is less than two months in under its new CEO, and Miss America 1989, Gretchen Carlson, and there are bound to be many policy revisions on their way that could also touch upon inclusivity.
“Miss America is coming over to our side of advocating for the woman. You’ll see a lot of changes that include a different, healthier body type, but even more so this year,” Gavankar added.
Last fall, Miss DC 2017 Briana Kinsey soared to become third-runner up for the Miss America crown. To Gavankar, that accomplishment is part of an upward trend she helped generate alongside Executive Director Tricia Lloyd to make the Miss DC experience about professional development paired with a winner’s scholarship of $10,000.
“DC is not taken seriously in DC. We’re making the woman more relevant each year and it’s changing because of the work you see Miss DC doing,” Gavankar explained. “We train our women to be the most comfortable, and the best they can be.”
From a production perspective, though, Gavankar anticipates the process of for Miss DC to stay mostly the same.
“The craziest part of Miss America is that it’s live. We produce Miss DC as if it is a live event and we try to give the competitors the most realistic experience that they’ll get at Miss America,” Gavankar said.
A unique aspect of the DC event is that they involve as many past winners as possible to host a 12-minute segment of the competition or be on the judging panel.
“Being Miss DC 1997 is not as relevant as being Miss DC 2017 because the experiences are different,” Gavankar said. “Showing past Miss DC’s allows the judges to compare them to the young women on stage. The winner needs to be able to grow into that standard.”
The 2018 season is well on its way with orientation for the new cohort of Miss DC hopefuls this weekend. While the hallmarks of preparation remain mostly the same, Miss DC 2017’s successful placement in last year’s top 5 is bound to make the competition to be part of that momentum something fierce on June 18, 2018!(Photo credits: Bruce Guthrie and The Miss America Organization)