The Miss America Organization has announced that former "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson, country radio personality Bobby Bones and singers Carnie Wilson and Jessie James Decker are among the judges for this year's Miss America Competition, which takes place Sept. 9 at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The other judges on this year's panel are boxer Laila Ali, TV journalist Soledad O'Brien and Drybar founder Alli Webb. ABC will telecast the show at 9 p.m. ET/PT. "Dancing With the Stars" judge Carrie Ann Inaba is the show's host.
This year's Miss America show will be the first that will have the sweeping and controversial changes that the Miss America Organization announced in June, including eliminating the swimsuit competition, changing the show's name from the Miss America Pageant to the Miss America Competition, allowing for more flexibility in the contestants' evening-wear fashion, and putting more emphasis on judging contestants for their personalities, intelligence and talent instead of their physical looks. The changes came about after former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America, took over as chair of the Miss America Organization in January 2018 and appointed other new leaders, after several of the organization's previous leaders were ousted in December 2017, when an email scandal exposed that they made derogatory and sexist comments about contestants.
The changes in the Miss America show's formats and policies have been met with criticism and praise. Among the critics are pageant officials from several states, many former Miss America contestants and thousands of petitioners who have called for the resignations from the current Miss America leadership. Things got even worse in August when Miss America 2018 Cara Mund made headlines when she went public with an open letter voicing her disapproval of the new policies and leadership. Mund has claimed in the letter and in multiple interviews that the current leadership has bullied her and excluded her. The Miss America Organization issued this statement in response to Mund's claims: “The Miss America Organization supports Cara. It is disappointing that she chose to air her grievances publicly not privately. Her letter contains mischaracterizations and many unfounded accusations. We are reaching out to her privately to address her concerns." Carlson also personally denied the claims in a letter that she posted on Twitter.
Unlike the Miss USA competition, the Miss America competition gives college scholarships to its winners, which is one of the reasons why the Miss America Organization says it wants to move away from contestants being judged for their physical characteristics. With all the controversy and changes surrounding the Miss America show, it remains to be seen how all of this will affect the show's TV ratings, which many people believe will be ultimate gauge of the public's reaction.