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No more swimsuits in the Miss Teen USA pageant

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.


In this Saturday, June 18, 2016 photo, Miss Missouri 2016 Erin O'Flaherty is being crowned by Miss Missouri 2015 McKensie Garber and the new 2016 Miss Missouri's Outstanding Teen Christina Stratton, her arm seen, in Mexico, Mo. Missouri has its first openly gay Miss Missouri, and she will represent the state at the Miss America pageant later this year.

When you think of a Miss America contest, or any of the other pageants like it, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? Is it the interview portion? The evening gowns? Some other part of the show? For most people, it’s probably the swimsuits. However, that will no longer be the case for the contest to determine the next Miss Teen USA. As Maeve McDermott writes for USA Today, “one of America’s highest-profile beauty pageants just traded bikinis for athleisure.”

For those unfamiliar with the term “athleisure”—as I was before googling it—it essentially refers to workout clothes that are also designed to be worn outside the gym. As such, they still give contestants the chance to demonstrate their athleticism, but hopefully do so in a less exploitative way—something that’s of particular concern considering the age of the pageant’s contestants—fifteen to nineteen years old.

While it’s unclear if the other pageants, such as Miss USA and Miss Universe, will adopt the change as well, it might make financial sense to do so. As Nancy Redd, the former Miss Virginia, pointed out, “Teens are spending point one percent of their life in a bathing suit and fifty percent in athleisure. The pageant is following the trend of who can sponsor them.” The same dynamic would likely apply to the other contests as well.

As a result, the move away from swimsuits not only makes moral sense but also business sense. It would transform that portion of the contests into a live commercial for the companies looking to advertise their latest active-wear, while also appealing to a wider range of sponsors. Of course, there’s also the possibility that such a shift would remove the portion of the current viewership whose interests do not extend far beyond the bikini contest, but perhaps that would not be all bad for the pageant’s reputation. After all, because you can’t please everyone, what you’re known for has to be about more than popular opinion. That’s true for the pageant and it’s true for us as well.

In a world where social media makes it incredibly easy for others to offer their opinions on even the most minute of topics, rarely can we say or do something that does not generate feedback of some sort. Sometimes that feedback will be positive and other times it will be negative, but seldom will it ever be entirely one or the other. As such, the opinions of others cannot serve as a suitable foundation for our identities or our decisions because they are far more shifting sand than solid rock (Matthew 7:24–27).

Knowing that it’s wrong to give such value to the opinions of others, however, is far easier than actually avoiding that mistake. Every day we encounter new thoughts and new reactions to the various aspects of our lives, but preventing those sentiments from carrying more weight than they should can be a constant battle. However, it gets easier when we remember who really should serve as that foundation (Isaiah 28:16).

So the next time you notice the opinions of others beginning to shift your thinking, remember to check those thoughts against the truth of God’s word by taking them to him in prayer. Sometimes God chooses to use other people to speak his truth into our lives, but we can’t be certain of when that is unless we go to God first. Will you?