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Miss New York wins Miss America in a new-look, swimsuit-free pageant

Replacing bikinis with interview questions, Miss America rounds out a controversy-filled year.
IMAGE: Miss America Nia Franklin
Miss America 2018, Cara Mund, crowns Miss New York, Nia Franklin, as Miss America 2019 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on Sunday.Noah K. Murray / AP

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Miss New York, Nia Franklin, was crowned Miss America on Sunday night after a tumultuous year that saw the pageant rebrand itself as a competition and drop its famous swimsuit segment.

Franklin was crowned from among the five finalists after a final interview question. The other finalists were Miss Louisiana, Holli' Conway; Miss Massachusetts, Gabriela Taveras; Miss Florida, Taylor Tyson; and Miss Connecticut, Bridget Oei.

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

Behind the scenes, a revolt is under way among most of the Miss America state organizations, which are demanding that national Chairwoman Gretchen Carlson and Chief Executive Regina Hopper resign.

The outgoing Miss America, Cara Mund, says the two have bullied and silenced her, claims that the women deny.

Through it all, the 51 young women vying for the crown and a $50,000 scholarship tried to remain focused.

"I am just having the time of my life," said Taveras, who won Friday's onstage interview preliminary with comments on how Americans traveling abroad should let people from other nations know that America supports and wants to help them.

The 98th Miss America competition was held at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in the city where it started nearly a century ago as a bathing beauty contest designed to extend the summer tourism season for another week after Labor Day.

Upon taking over at the helm of the Miss America Organization last winter following an email scandal in which former top leaders denigrated the appearance, intellect and sex lives of former Miss Americas, Carlson and Hopper set out to transform the organization, dubbing it "Miss America 2.0."

The most consequential decision was to drop the swimsuit competition and give the candidates more time to talk onstage about themselves, their platforms and how they would do the job of Miss America. Supporters welcomed it as a long-overdue attempt to make Miss America more relevant to contemporary society, while others mourned the loss of what they considered an integral part of what made Miss America an enduring part of Americana.

Unhappy with how the decision was reached, as well as with other aspects of Carlson's and Hopper's performance, 46 of the 51 state pageant organizations (the District of Columbia is included) have called on the two to resign.

Adding to the intrigue was a remarkable letter released by Mund, the outgoing Miss America, who said Carlson and Hopper had bullied, silenced and marginalized her. They deny having done any of that, saying they have been working tirelessly to move the organization into the future.

Onstage interview comments raised some eyebrows during three nights of non-televised preliminary competition. On Friday, Miss West Virginia Madeline Collins was asked what she feels is the most serious issue facing the nation.

She replied, "Donald Trump is the biggest issue our country faces. Unfortunately, he has caused a lot of division in our country."

A day earlier, Miss Virginia Emili McPhail was asked what advice she would give to NFL players about whether to stand or kneel for the national anthem. She said not standing during the anthem "is a right you have."

"But it's also not about kneeling," she said. "It is absolutely about police brutality."