The Miss America 2019 competition winner is Miss New York, Nia Franklin.
The rest of the top five included Miss Connecticut, Bridget Oei; Miss Florida, Taylor Tyson; Miss Louisiana, Holli' Conway; and Miss Massachusetts, Gabriela Taveras.
Franklin is the first winner after the Miss America Organization announced a major change for the historic pageant. For the first time in the pageant's history, contestants were not judged on their physical appearance. In addition, the term "pageant" was erased from the broadcast, with hosts Carrie Ann Inaba and Ross Matthews referring to it as a "competition."
The differences were made clear at the beginning of the two-hour broadcast from Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall. As Katy Perry's "Roar" played, the contestants listed their college education and achievements, although Miss Michigan caught attention for speaking out about the Flint water crisis.
Instead of a swimsuit competition, the competitors had a interactive session with the judges panel, which included Soledad O'Brien, Randy Jackson, Laila Ali, Bobby Bones, Jessie James Decker, Carnie Wilson and Alli Webb. The first challenge was also a unique take on the Q&A session, with the competitors asking each other questions, and they only had 15 seconds to answer.
While physical appearance was no longer a determining factor, the competition still included a "red carpet" evening wear segment, where the competitors walked a red carpet on the stage. At the end, Matthews asked each contestant what is on her mind, giving them a chance to talk about their favorite causes, from global warming and the environment to the impact of campus sexual harassment.
"We’ve heard from a lot of young women who say, ‘We’d love to be a part of your program but we don’t want to be out there in high heels and a swimsuit,’ so guess what, you don’t have to do that anymore," Gretchen Carlson, the 1989 Miss America and Chair of the Miss America Organization Board of Trustees chair, said in June. "Who doesn’t want to be empowered, learn leadership skills and pay for college and be able to show the world who you are as a person from the inside of your soul. That’s what we’re judging them on now."
Carlson said the goal for the big changes was to bring Miss America into the 21st Century and to stay relevant for younger audiences.0comments
"We are now open, inclusive and transparent and I want to inspire thousands of young people across this country to come and be a part of our program," Carlson explained. "We want you and we want to celebrate your accomplishments and your talents and then we want to hand you scholarships."
Photo credit: ABC/Lou Rocco