Miss America announces all-female leadership team, ‘new era of progressiveness’

The new executives, who join Gretchen Carlson at the helm of the pageant, 'are working toward a renewed relevancy for the program so more young women will see Miss America as a path through which they can succeed and grow.' Watch video

The Miss America Organization has taken another step in overhauling its leadership by announcing two women as top executives.

They join former Miss America (1989) and Fox News host Gretchen Carlson at the helm of the pageant after a tumultuous year for the aging Atlantic City institution, following an email scandal that toppled its former CEO.

It’s the first time that former titleholders have presided over the Miss America leadership.

Regina Hopper, Miss Arkansas 1983, has been named the president and CEO of the Miss America Organization, and Marjorie Vincent-Tripp, Miss America 1991, has been appointed chair of the Miss America Foundation’s board of trustees.

Carlson, who sued former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes for sexual harassment in 2016, emerging as a prominent voice in the #MeToo movement, became the first former titleholder to be named chairwoman of the Miss America Organization’s board of trustees at the start of the year.

She has trumpeted the pageant’s new female leadership as part of an effort to salvage the pageant’s reputation, hinting at some changes in the direction and structure of the pageant that would put more of an emphasis on scholarship and women’s empowerment. Carlson has stopped short of saying the swimsuit competition — often derided as one of the most anachronistic components of the event — will be a thing of the past, but has not ruled that out.

“The induction of this all female leadership team signals forthcoming transformational changes to the entire organization and program, ushering in a new era of progressiveness, inclusiveness and empowerment,” the Miss America Organization said in a statement Thursday.  

Hopper and Vincent-Tripp round out the pageant’s new all-female leadership team after the exit of the previous pageant board following the ouster of the pageant’s former CEO, Sam Haskell. Haskell became the subject of a scandal in December over the content of his leaked emails.

The content of the messages, published in HuffPost, reflected a misogynistic tone, as in the correspondence between Haskell and a pageant scriptwriter, who referred to former Miss Americas with a derogatory term for female genitalia. The emails also showed that Haskell had made disparaging comments about a former Miss America’s appearance.

Hopper, who is now responsible for managing regular pageant business and the event’s TV broadcast (Miss America has a contract with ABC through the next pageant in September), is an executive at Gridsmart, a Tennessee traffic technology company, and an Emmy-winning former correspondent for CBS News.

She had been instrumental in efforts to oust Haskell, having joined Brent Adams, a former employee of Haskell’s production company who worked on Miss America, in presenting Dick Clark Productions the contents of Haskell’s emails.

The company, which had been brought on to boost Miss America’s pop culture profile through its awards shows, broke ties with the pageant after the pageant board also reviewed the emails and did not take any action to remove Haskell from his position. 

“We all care deeply about this program and, as we move toward the 100th anniversary, are working toward a renewed relevancy for the program so more young women will see Miss America as a path through which they can succeed and grow,” Hopper said in a statement, addressing the attempts to shore up support for a progressive Miss America despite the large shadow cast by the recent scandal.

Vincent-Tripp, a former Miss America who competed as Miss Illinois, is an assistant attorney general in Florida and former TV anchor and reporter. 

In the wake of the scandal, former pageant titleholders, who were instrumental in pushing Haskell out the door, have filled empty seats on the pageant board: Kate Shindle, Miss America 1998, who grew up in Brigantine but competed as Miss Illinois; Heather French Henry, Miss America 2000; and Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss, Miss America 2012.

The pageant was in danger of losing its host city when officials at the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which has a contract with the pageant that provides millions of dollars to Miss America, said they would examine whether the pageant was in breach of contract following the pageant’s break with Dick Clark Productions. As part of the contract with the pageant, the company had agreed to promote Atlantic City in its productions.

But in April, the CRDA ultimately approved the final year of the pageant’s contract, meaning Miss America gets $4.3 million for the upcoming pageant this September. 

The reigning Miss America is Cara Mund, 24, a graduate of Brown University who competed as Miss North Dakota. 

 

 

Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at akuperinsky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup or on Facebook.

 

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