Former Fox News host and empowerment advocate Gretchen Carlson has a new job. Last week, she stepped into her voluntary role as chairwoman for the Miss America Pageant, following the resignation of the organizations' CEO and COO at the demand of a cadre of former Miss Americas. And everyone wants to know what Carlson — the woman who was crucial in taking down former FOX News CEO Roger Ailes — is going to do to take down the patriarchal traditions of pageants.
Carlson is the first actual former pageant member to serve as the organization's leader. On the new board, she'll also be among three other former pageant winners. In her role as chairwoman, Carlson has explained that changes are a coming, but it is still unclear what those changes will be. The one thing she's firm on is that she intends to make the Miss America institution more empowering for participants.
In an interview with PBS Newshour, Carlson told host Judy Woodruff that she plans to bring the Me Too movement to Miss American to let the "experience play out" and "really focus on that theme of empowerment for these contestants."
On Friday, in an interview with Amy Robach on Good Morning America, Carlson discussed her new role with the fervent optimism. She explained to Robach that she plans to modernize the Miss America Pageant. Though, when it came to her opinion about the swimsuit competition — a long-held and controversial pageant tradition — she kept things vague, but hinted it might be going away.
"I have so many great ideas for this organization, and I will be talking about those with all the other board members and the eventual CEO of Miss America and staff of Miss America," she said. "So what I would love to say about that is, please stay tuned, because I plan to make this organization 100% about empowering women. Changes are coming — potentially big changes."
Her PBS interview broached the same subject, and Carlson said that she is “going to be taking a very serious look at that.” When Woodruff brought up the swimsuit competition again, later in the interview, the former pageant winner stayed noncommittal. “I’m planning to reach out to experts in all those fields to figure out what’s best to get people interested. But I’m not worried about that at all right now," Carlson said. "What I’m worried about is wrapping my arms around this organization, getting up to speed as quickly as I can, getting just exactly the right people in place to help me on this mission.”
While the changes Carlson has in mind for the nearly century-old competition are unknown, she did discuss the importance of the talent competition and how it empowered her as a contestant during her 1989 win with PBS. She shared that Miss America gave her "amazing life skills."
The ousting of the pageant’s top leaders came after a thread of controversial emails surfaced, thus revealing what insiders knew from the beginning: the pageant biz isn’t as wholesome as it appears on TV.