Miss Teen USA pageant drops swimsuit competition in favor of athleisure

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/ Source: TODAY
By Rheana Murray

The athleisure trend is finally infiltrating the pageant scene.

The young women competing for the title of Miss Teen USA 2016 next month won't be hitting the stage in swimsuits like past years' contestants did, a pageant spokeswoman confirmed to TODAY Style.

Instead, they'll be participating in a new athletic-wear portion of the competition.

"This decision reflects an important cultural shift we're all celebrating that empowers women who lead active, purposeful lives and encourage those in their communities to do the same," Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization, which runs the Miss Teen USA pageant, said in a letter announcing the news.

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"Our hope is that this decision will help all of Miss Teen USA's fans recognize these young women for the strong, inspiring individuals they are," she added.

Shugart said that the organization will continue to "evolve in ways that celebrate women's strength, confidence and beauty for years to come."

Given the ubiquity of fit models in crop tops and yoga pants on Instagram, and a country that’s arguably more interested in health and fitness than ever before, the news might not be so surprising to fans.

Plus, the topic of swimsuits in beauty pageants has long been controversial. In 2014, the Miss World organization opted to ban swimsuits from future pageants, and there’s been debate about whether or not the Miss USA pageant, also run by the Miss Universe Organization, should do the same. (The most recent Miss USA pageant, held earlier this month in Las Vegas, did feature swimsuits.)

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Many are praising the teen pageant for ditching swimsuits, including the reigning Miss Teen USA, Katherine Haik of Louisiana.

"I have been an athlete my entire life," Haik said in a statement sent to TODAY Style. "As a member of a softball team and a competitive dance team, I spend a lot of time in athletic wear. This new direction for Miss Teen USA is a great way to celebrate the active lives that so many young women lead and set a strong example for our peers."

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The Miss Teen USA pageant will be held in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 30.