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When we first read that Miss Teen USA was ditching the swimsuit component of its annual beauty pageant competition, we thought, “Huh. Progress.”
That is, until we understood that the contestants, aged 15-19, would be parading around the stage in “athletic wear,” instead. Um, progress?
USA Today broke the news Wednesday morning that the Miss Teen USA pageant, a division of WME | IMG’s Miss Universe Organization, would be doing away with the swimsuits in an effort to modernize the competition. Pageant organizers noted that the swimsuit portion had always been intended to show off the girls’ “athleticism” (okay, sure), but stated that the shift to athletic wear better shows the organization’s focus on health and wellness.
Writes Miss Universe president Paula Shugart, “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.” There’s no word yet on whether the Miss Universe pageant will follow suit.
The Miss Universe Organization tells Pret-a-Reporter that they have yet to define “athletic wear,” however judging from the official Instagram account of reigning Miss Teen USA, Katherine Haik, we’re guessing it looks a lot like leggings, sports bras and sneakers. The 16-year-old posted a photo from a recent hike to announce the news.
“I have been an athlete my entire life,” says Haik. “As a member of a softball team and a competitive dance team, I spend a lot of time in athletic wear.” Plus, athleisure is like, so hot right now among Gen Z — just ask Puma ambassador Kylie Jenner. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from watching the Kween of Tweens‘ Snapchat account (yep, guilty) it’s that teens love athleisure and overdrawn matte lips — preferably at the same time.
The organization’s decision could also provide an opportunity for one of the hundreds of emerging athleisure brands on the block to score a sponsorship deal to outfit the 51 teens (representing 50 states and the District of Columbia). Previously, contestants wore bikinis by Sun Kitten Swimwear which they paired with heels by Chinese Laundry.
The Miss Teen USA pageant, which has not been televised since 2007, will test-drive the new athletic wear competition at this year’s pageant on July 30 in Las Vegas.
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