Miss America wins minus swimsuit competition

Free Press wire reports | 9/13/2018, 6 a.m.
There she is, Miss America. And Nia Imani Franklin, who won the coveted title Sunday night in Atlantic City while …
Miss New York Nia Imani Franklin is struck by emotion after being crowned Miss America last Sunday in the competition in Atlantic City, N.J. Carlo Allegri/Reuters


There she is, Miss America.

And Nia Imani Franklin, who won the coveted title Sunday night in Atlantic City while competing as Miss New York, didn’t have to parade around in a swimsuit to be crowned the winner.

The Winston-Salem, N.C., native said the changes in the 98-year-old pageant are a welcome modernization.

Meeting reporters soon after winning the crown, Ms. Franklin said she’s glad there was no swimsuit competition because it enabled her to eat a little more.

“These changes, I think, will be great for our organization,” she said. “I’ve already seen so many young women reaching out to me personally as Miss New York asking how they can get involved because I think they feel more empowered that they don’t have to do things such as walk in a swimsuit for a scholarship.

“And I’m happy that I didn’t have to do so to win this title tonight because I’m more than just that,” Ms. Franklin said. “And all these women on stage are more than just that.”

Her victory Sunday night resurrected a string of successes the Empire State has had in the pageant in recent years. Mallory Hagan, Nina Davuluri and Kira Kazantsev won the title from 2013 to 2015 competing as Miss New York.

A classical vocalist whose pageant platform is “advocating for the arts,” Ms. Franklin sang an operatic selection from the Puccini opera “La Boheme.”

She wrote her first song at age 5. It went “Love, love, love, love, is the only thing that matters to me, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey.” At the prompting of an Associated Press reporter, she sang the song at her post-victory press conference as audience members snapped their fingers.

From her first song, Ms. Franklin has gone on to write her own opera in college and has penned more than 100 songs. 

Ms. Franklin won a $50,000 scholarship along with the crown in the first Miss America pageant to be held without a swimsuit competition.

She said during her on stage interview that she was one of only a small number of minority students in school growing up, but used her love for music and the arts to grow and fit in.

Ms. Franklin is a graduate of East Carolina University and earned a master’s at the University of North Carolina’s School of the Arts. She previously competed to be Miss North Carolina.

She won the Miss New York pageant as Miss Five Boroughs after moving to Brooklyn when she was picked for the Lincoln Center Education’s Kenan Fellowship program through which recent graduates of UNC’s School of the Arts travel to New York to be mentored. 

The fourth runner-up was Miss Massachusetts Gabriela Taveras; third runner-up was Miss Florida Taylor Tyson; second runner-up was Miss Louisiana Holli’ Conway, and the first runner up was Miss Connecticut Bridget Oei.

The decision to drop the swimsuit competition created a good deal of controversy and criticism of current Miss America leadership. Minutes before the nationally televised broadcast began, a comedian warming up the crowd mentioned that there would be no swimsuit competition this year, and was met with loud boos in the hall.

The swimsuit portion was replaced by onstage interviews, which have generated attention-grabbing remarks from contestants regarding President Trump and NFL player protests, among other topics.