Local contestants mixed on Miss America nixing the swimsuit contest

The Miss America Organization has made some major changes to its competition, including getting rid of the swimsuit contest. In its place will be a live interaction session with the judges. 

The news about the change got mixed feelings from Miss Kenosha 2018, Maria Salerno.  

"I'm sad to see it go, but on the other hand I'm so excited to see the Miss America Organization empowering women," said Salerno. 

She says shifting from bikini to banter will allow her to focus more on her platform "See the Gift" which was inspired by her brother.

Nick is her older brother and has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, making him unable to walk or talk. However, he's completely cognizant, has his high school diploma, and has future plans to attend college.

"Nick means so much to me and the ability to speak about my platform really gives me purpose within the system," said Salerno. "I'm entering schools, girl scout troops and the community and talk to them and help them see the gift of people like Nick."

As Miss St. Francis 2006 and the current Miss St. Francis Judges Chairperson, Andrea Bender says the swimsuit section should stay put. 

"I always say the swimsuit competition is won from the neck up," said Bender. 

Bender has volunteered to be a judge in the past, she points out bikinis are a small part of the overall competition but it gives competitors the greatest sense of confidence. Salerno echoes that sentiment.

"By being up on stage in that swimsuit and putting all my fears and inhibitions aside. Showing the world what I have. That instilled a level of confidence in me that I've been able to translate into all aspects of my life," said Salerno. 

Bender argues Miss America doesn't need to change, but the public's perception should.  

"When you watch it on TV they start at the legs. Then they zoom in on the butts and start moving up. By the time they get to face the camera is gone," said Bender. 

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