“I say in the book that it’s always been in dialogue with feminism, but behind feminism,” Mifflin said of the Miss America competition. “So it always seems like it’s trying to catch up.”
Dunlap, the seventh Black Miss America, believes the competition — which she has no problem calling a pageant — needs to become more diverse in order to remain relevant. She noted, for example, there have been no winners of Hispanic origin.
She said more needs to be done to help young women of color get involved at the local level, such as helping them cover the high costs of participating — including developing their talents and buying gowns — so they can pursue the same life-changing opportunities.
This year, the nonprofit organization — run by an ardent group of volunteers at the national, state and local levels — announced the top scholarship awarded at the Dec. 16 finale will double to $100,000. The change was made possible by a donation from Miss America 1996 Shawntel Smith Wuerch and her husband Ryan Wuerch. According to the organization, a total of $435,500 in scholarship money will be distributed in this year’s competition, while more than $5 million is awarded annually through national, state and local programs.
Dunlap hopes that instead of looking for what she calls an “it girl” who can attract hits on social media, the Miss America organization in the coming years focuses on the promoting the “longevity of the organization.” Krebs says organizers are doing just that, noting the number of annual participants increased from about 5,000 to 6,500 after the 2018 changes.