New Yorker Nia Franklin Wins Miss America, While Miss Michigan Slams State’s Water Crisis

Politics played a surprising role in the first swimsuit-free pageant

Last Updated: September 10, 2018 @ 7:21 AM

Nia Franklin of New York City was crowned Miss America on Sunday in the first pageant in the organization’s 98-year history without a swimsuit or evening gown contest.

Franklin earns a $50,000 scholarship, while Connecticut’s Bridget Oei was named first runner-up and earned a $25,000 scholarship.

But the post-#MeToo tweaks to the contest weren’t the only signs of change as politics reared their head throughout the competition.

Miss Michigan Emily Sioma eschewed the usual boastful or rah-rah self-introduction to deliver this pointed diss at her home state in the live broadcast Sunday night: “From a state with 84 percent of the U.S. fresh water, but none for its residents to drink, I’m Miss Michigan, Emily Sioma.”

During pre-broadcast competition on Friday, another contestant made a pointed remark about President Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump is the biggest issue our country faces,” Miss West Virginia Madeline Collins told the judges. “Unfortunately, he has caused a lot of division in our country.”

The nearly century-old pageant has been roiled by drama in the last year after CEO Roger Haskell and other top officials resigned last December following the disclosure of derogatory and sexually oriented emails about past contestants.

Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America and TV personality, was named chair of the Miss America Organization board of trustees and initiated a wave of changes — including the elimination of the swimsuit and evening gown competitions and a vow to rule out physical appearance as a criterion for judging a winner.

This year’s judges included boxer Laila Ali, radio host Bobby Bones, music producer Randy Jackson, reality star Jessie James Decker, TV journalist Soledad O’Brien, podcaster Alli Webb and musician Carnie Wilson.

Carrie ann Inaba (“Dancing With the Star”) and E! regular Ross Mathews hosted.