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Miss America CEO on pageant eliminating swimsuits: 'Perfect pivot'

Miss America CEO and Chair of the Board Shantel Krebs joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss the latest outlook for the Miss America pageant as the organization commits to a rebrand.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Baseball mom, apple pie. There's only one other thing that's as American as all that-- the Miss America Pageant. It's celebrating 100 years. And to help us celebrate along with them, we invite into the stream, Shantel Krebs, the Miss America CEO and chair of the board along with Alexandra Canal, our producer we call Ali. And I'm going to throw it over to you, Ali, to get things started.

ALEXANDRA CANAL: Yeah, Shantel, thank you so much for joining us. We were just talking about in the break, I competed in the Miss America system as a teen. So I am very excited to talk to you. 100 years Miss America. You guys got rid of the swimsuit competition in 2018.

Now, you're looking to push a new nutrition and wellness program. Talk to me a little bit about that program and why you feel like this is the right change for the organization.

SHANTEL KREBS: Well, the Miss America organization is excited to announce a timely launching of this Women's Wellness initiative with Jonathan Bailor and the SANE Solution curriculum, which, of course, has been backed by a top docs in the Harvard Medical School and why it's so timely is exactly what you said.

In 2018, we eliminated the swimsuit competition, which Ali, I think we can all agree that was just a facade. It's really a facade and covering up the real women who compete. And those real women are the women that are contributing to society.

They donate thousands of hours and their platforms or their social impact initiatives. They compete in the Miss America system like you did to gain scholarship dollars to advance their education career. So this is a perfect pivot for Miss America into our next 100 years.

We no longer judge on the physical appearance and outer beauty, so to speak, of our candidates. We are focusing on what they do in their communities, what they represent in the education, and their career goals. And our goal with the partnership with SANE Solution and, of course, Jonathan Bailor's wellness curriculum is to show that you need to have peak performance to be able to be a successful woman and achieve your greatness.

Your greatness is not defined by your physical appearance. It's truly defined by how you perform every day, whether it be in the boardroom, the classroom, or just out in the street and greeting people.

ADAM SHAPIRO: It's good to hear the transition I think a lot of people celebrate as we celebrate strong, intelligent, powerful women. But are we going too far, perhaps, because what's wrong with also celebrating beauty?

SHANTEL KREBS: Well, I think that's a question that we can all realize that you know what. Miss America still has that glamorous component-- that air of something that people look to because she really has been the center of national trends, social movements.

When you look back over the years, Miss America has been at the forefront. She's been breaking barriers being the inclusive organization that we are since 1921, 100 years ago. Of course, we had our first Native American heritage Miss America in 1926.

We awarded the first scholarship in 1945 of $5,000. Now, today Adam, we award over $5 million of scholarships. And that's the focus. When you say we can't ever go too far, because right now, what we need to focus on is empowering women to achieve greatness.

That greatness is helping to make sure that women perform at their peak, that they have the Women's Wellness curricula from SANE Solution, and Jonathan Bailor's "Better" documentary, which I love and suggest you check out. That helps women achieve their goals. And that's what this organization is about is helping them achieve their goals.

EMILY MCCORMICK: With some of these changes to the competition itself and this new partnership with SANE Solution, has the underlying message or mission behind Miss America changed?

SHANTEL KREBS: You know, I don't think it has. Again, I feel like for all the years that people typically see Miss America only one time of year on TV at that broadcast moment and date. But Miss America does things throughout the year, 365 days a year. And that's where we see her again out in our communities with her social impact initiatives advocating for and making sure that she's making a difference with thousands of hours donated.

That's what we've always been about. And we've always been at the forefront again by encouraging education past and awarding these scholarship dollars. That's the Miss America program. So only coupling with Jonathan Bailor's SANE Solution is going to help provide that optimal wellness curriculum to make sure that every woman or everybody-- or every body when I say that-- is it's an inclusive environment.

And I think every woman can relate to that is that how do you make yourself feel better, perform better, and do your day-to-day activities. And this is what that's all about is truly, Miss America, she's the girl next door that's doing exactly what you do day to day.

ALEXANDRA CANAL: And to that point, there has been a lot of rebranding surrounding the organization. And there have been some critics that say, OK, well, is Miss America relevant anymore? Is Miss America the same, you know, big event that it was 20, 30 years ago? What do you have to say to those critics?

SHANTEL KREBS: Well, absolutely it's still is. If it wasn't, why are we still having the organization? It was as strong as ever now and going into the next 100 years. That's our focus is to make sure that our mission-- preparing great women for the world and preparing the world for great women continues. And we have that success with thousands of candidates competing. And that just tells you, women that are competing are growing in numbers.

We have over 5,000 women compete every year. That tells you they're interested. Again, it goes back to the education component and the scholarship component. They're competing to do the things that you're seeing right now-- science demonstrations, going on to doctor, a pharmacies, becoming lawyers, doctors. They are contributing to society. And the launching pad that Miss America has provided them has been doing that for years.

ADAM SHAPIRO: When we talk about the launching pad, I mean, you have experience as well in these kinds of pageants. And then you went into politics. Do you think we're going to see more people using a pageant like this in this particular pageant as a platform to spring forward in their careers such as politics?

SHANTEL KREBS: Absolutely. It's a great-- it was a great experience in launching pad for me in my political career. And I'm very grateful for the Miss America organization have done that me. But I'll give you an example. Like this year, we have four ladies competing for state title holders competing this year that are currently either active duty or reserve or Navy [? inside ?] officers in our military. They're serving our country.

I think that's a great combination is Miss America, which we all know it again, is something, as a household name is recognized as we are. As our military men and women who serve, we appreciate their service in the military. And we appreciate their service as Miss America candidates doing their social impact initiatives in their communities.

And so yes, to answer your question, this is a great way for them to gain experience. Those interview skills-- those are the things that people don't see behind the scenes. They just see on TV that one moment. But what we're building behind the scenes is media training, advocacy, informing, lobbying, educating. That is what these young ladies do every day as titleholders.

ALEXANDRA CANAL: And Shantel, really quickly, I wanted to get your opinion on this in the Miss USA system. And I have friends that get confused about this. Miss America and Miss USA are two completely different organizations. But in that organization, they did recently crown the first openly transgender winner, Miss Nevada USA.

Right now to compete in Miss America, there is a gender requirement saying that the candidate is female. So what's your reaction to Mr Nevada USA winning that title? And with this new push for visibility and inclusion, is that something that Miss America could welcome eventually?

SHANTEL KREBS: Well, I want to talk about our inclusivity right now. And this is a perfect example of how a SANE Solution and Jonathan Bailor's "Better" documentary talks about that, that everyone is included in the Miss America competition, that they're welcome because everybody can compete. And that definition is as a woman, you're welcome to compete in the Miss America organization. We're very proud of that fact.

ADAM SHAPIRO: We wish you all the best and congratulations on 100 years. And to the next 100 years, we celebrate the next century with the Miss America Pageant. Shantel Krebs, all the best to you. We'll be right back.