Miss Teen USA, the younger sister pageant to Miss USA, is eliminating the swimsuit competition, USA Today first reported.
It’s actually a brilliant business move.
By getting rid of the swimsuit, Teen USA, which is for girls ages 14 to 19, is potentially opening up to more teenage girls who might want to compete for the crown.
Aside from the final onstage question, the swimsuit competition is perhaps one of the most nerve-wracking parts of a beauty pageant. Just imagine what it feels like to be on a stage in a bikini, walking, turning, and posing in 5-inch heels all while being judged.
“One of the biggest fears is girls walking across a stage in a swimsuit, especially as a teenager…A lot of times the swimsuit portion will scare people away. By saying athletic wear it’s like, ‘OK, I can walk across stage in athletic wear,’” said Steven Roddy, the founder of The Pageant Planet—the largest online pageant coaching resource in the world.
At the end of the day, the pageant is a business. At the state level, entry fees tend to be north of $1,500. So more contestants means more money. If the teenage constestant enjoys her experience, she might try to compete for Miss USA in her twenties.
This move to exit swimwear also seems like a great opportunity to align with a fitness brand. Think lululemon (LULU) or Under Armour (UA). In the past, Teen USA has had swimwear sponsors like Kandice Pelletier and more recently Sun Kitten Swimwear. Chinese Laundry is the official shoe sponsor.
“With this change in the Teen USA system it really opens them up to do a strategic partnership with a fitness line that really launch or solidify a fitness wear company,” Roddy said.
And there’s also the marketing component.
“People are very anti-bullying and anti-body shaming, and by removing the swimsuit they can tie into the trend right now,” said Roddy.
Teen USA is run by the Miss Universe Organization, which is owned by WME/IMG.
Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance.