Former Lawton title holders talk about Miss America changes

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - A former Miss Lawton and Miss Lawton's Outstanding Teen have differing opinions about the Miss America Organization eliminating the swimsuit portion of the competition. One said that portion left her with lower self-esteem, and the other said they felt empowered.

Tevis Hillis, who was Miss Lawton's Outstanding Teen back in 2015, is happy to hear that the organization is dropping swimsuits. Her first year competing in that category, in the miss age group, lowered what she thought of herself.

"I was told I don't have the body of Miss Oklahoma," Hillis said. "To be told that at the age of 17 is crazy. You imagine your body in a different way than it should be. I'm a young active person, and I should feel great in my body, and in my skin."

Hillis said she saw multiple people on social media today disagreeing with the change. Lacey Anderson, Miss Lawton 2017, is one of them. She said she was shocked and saddened to see the swimsuit portion of the competition was removed. Anderson said that phase made her come out of her shell.

"And as uncomfortable as it can be to be standing in front of an audience in heels, in a swimsuit, it can be terrifying," Anderson said. "It can be nerve-wracking, but after I did that, I left like I could do anything."

Last year at Miss Oklahoma, Anderson won the preliminary swimsuit competition. She works in the medical field and said taking it out makes her think of the long-term effects of not having a healthy lifestyle and focus on fitness.

"It doesn't have to the chiseled abs or the chiseled legs," Anderson said. "It's not really about that. When you read through the ballots, of the Miss America Competition, it's all about how she presents herself."

Both women have reasons why they're happy or sad it's gone.

"I wish that they'd keep that phase because it makes such a well-rounded individual," Anderson said.

"It's going to give girls inclusivity, and it's going to give them a chance to make their dreams come true," Hillis said.

The director of the Miss Lawton pageant said he wishes they would leave it in because some girls really work hard and shine in that area.

According to the organization, Miss America contestants will now take part in a live interactive session with the judges in place of the swimwear competition. As for when it will leave the local level is unknown at this time.

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